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The former top judge in England and Wales warns against ignoring European Court of Human Rights on Rwanda

  • The former top judge in England and Wales warns against ignoring European Court of Human Rights on Rwanda
  • Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, who was Lord Chief Justice, predicts the next battleground with judges will be climate change: “politically the government will not want to make the public pay the price of climate change”
  • Thomas - the judge who invoked the headline “Enemies of the People” condemns those media attacks as redolent of “Robespierre, Hitler and Stalin”, warning they are “unacceptable in a modern democracy”.

A former Lord Chief Justice has warned that the Government should not ignore the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights if it intervenes to block flights to Rwanda.

Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd said: “If you have subjected yourself to a court, and it was our voluntary decision to do so, then you have to take the rough with the smooth and if they’ve decided [the court] have this jurisdiction then you ought to follow it.

“You can’t expect others to respect the law if you say you won’t respect the law of someone else.”

Lord Thomas, who was Lord Chief Justice from 2013 to 2017, says that the only way to a resolve the immigration issue is to deal with it speedily and allowing only one right of appeal.

“You ought to actually be able, within a set period of time, say a fortnight, to investigate, decide, give him one right of appeal - why you should have more than one right of appeal I simply don’t understand - and remove them.” But, he concedes, it costs money.

In 2016 Lord Thomas found himself in the eye of the storm when he and fellow judges ruled that the Government needed the approval of Parliament before triggering Brexit.

Their ruling led to an infamous front-page tabloid headline, “Enemies of the People.”

Thomas said, “to throw abuse at the judiciary in that way and use a phrase that was redolent of Robespierre, Hitler and Stalin” was “just unacceptable in a modern democracy”.

Lord Thomas also endured a turbulent time in his four years at the top of the judiciary, clashing with the then Lord Chancellor/Justice Secretary, Liz Truss.

Recalling those tensions in damning terms, he says: “Her period as Lord Chancellor showed the issues that would subsequently arise when she had more senior posts, particularly that of Prime Minister, of someone who doesn’t listen, doesn’t take advice and doesn’t understand the Constitution.”

He makes his comments in a ground-breaking podcast series, The Judges: Power, Politics and the People,” hosted by The University of Law. The episode is launched on Tuesday December 12.

Lord Thomas also predicts that the next major battleground between judges and ministers will be climate change.

“The laws are such that the government will, I am sure, have a clash because politically they won’t want to make the public pay the price of climate change.”

“If you ask me where the crunch point is going to come it’s going to be in relation to climate change, because the way in which climate is regulated...we will reach a position where the political wish not to constrain the consumption of energy or not to look after the environment properly will run into a collision with what the law is.”

That, he adds, is likely to be a “far more contentious issue” than current problems relating to immigration.

You can watch the full episode on YouTube or you can listen to the podcast on The University of Law channel which is being streamed on all major services including Spotify and Apple.