The freedom of Supreme Courts

Freedom of expression is “an important card in the pack” but “not always the ace of trumps”, according to Lady Justice Arden.

In a speech, Freedom of Expression and the Role of a Supreme Court—Some Issues from Around the World, at a judicial academic conference in the summer, Arden LJ considered the role of Supreme Courts.


These generally have the power to interpret a written constitution and determine federal questions as well as being a final court of appeal in some areas of law, she said. The new UK Supreme Court, due to begin hearing cases on 1 October, will have power to determine devolution questions, and will also have a “responsibility to select those cases that will enable it to set the law in a new direction”.

The House of Lords, like Supreme Courts in other jurisdictions, has taken a lead role in developing freedom of expression laws, she said, for example, in the case of Campbell v MGN [2004], where the rights of supermodel Naomi Campbell were protected above the right of the Mirror newspaper to reveal details of her treatment for drug addiction.

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