Qualities of a good judge

Judiciary

Lady Justice Arden has highlighted the qualities required by judges, in a speech about the Magna Carta.

Judges need to have both social awareness and knowledge of the case law of courts outside the UK, particularly of the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights, she said. Speaking at the University of London, in October, Arden LJ said: “Judges must be able to demonstrate that they understand the context in which their decisions are being made.

“The judiciary, therefore, needs to understand people in different walks of life and in different cultures. I am not suggesting that judges should decide cases other than according to law, but they do need to know about social issues so as to be able to respond to them. “In the past, the judiciary has been able to decide issues using its own inner resources but there is presently very little diversity in the judiciary, and to compensate for this, greater weight needs to be given to this sort of awareness.”

She outlined the continuing legacy of the Magna Carta - a “monumental affirmation of the rule of law”. It required judges to sit in a fixed place, away from the King – laying the foundation for the doctrine of separation of powers, and led to the concept of judicial independence. Judges were required to apply the law of the realm, which authorised them to apply common law, and it provided that justice would not be sold or delayed.
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