To retain public confidence judges cannot stand ‘aloof’ from society, warned the Lord Chief Justice, as he called for a ‘measured expansion of livestreaming and broadcasting’ of proceedings.
Speaking at the Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association annual conference in Australia, Lord Justice Burnett urged judges to engage more with the public and media. He said: ‘The judiciary invites misunderstanding or incomprehension if it stands completely apart and aloof from society.’
Support for judicial independence is ‘not immutable and cannot be taken for granted’ he said, warning of a ‘gentle erosion’ of support in some countries.
‘We have seen judges referred to as “so-called judges”. We see judges being criticised because their decisions fail to match the popular mood,’ he said, noting the newspaper ‘Enemies of the People’ headlines that followed the Brexit referendum litigation.
‘Judicial independence, like democracy and the rule of law, is dependent on the existence of strong cultural norms. The concepts need to be understood. Society, as a whole, must believe in them and they must be supported by society,’ he said.
In order to secure effective public understanding of the role of the judiciary, Lord Justice Burnett said that judges must be committed to ‘open justice’ with judgments, rulings and sentencing remarks given in open court and greater online publication of judgments and online broadcasting of hearings.
He added: ‘I look forward to a measured expansion of livestreaming and broadcasting of proceedings more widely.’