Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you may have noticed that the Supreme Court has been in the news recently.
What you may not know is that it also celebrated its 10th birthday this week. Moreover, another British institution – Monty Python’s Flying Circus, celebrates its 50th anniversary next week too!
To celebrate, here are five interesting facts that you may not know about our foremost forum, the Supreme Court:
1. “The Argument Clinic”
The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal for civil cases in the UK, replacing the House of Lords in this function in 2009.
Its purpose is to hear appeals on arguable points of the law which are of public importance. The Supreme Court cannot overturn Acts of Parliament, but can overturn other legislation, such as government regulations.
2. “The Spanish Inquisition”
There are 12 Supreme Court Judges (including the President and the Deputy President) who are referred to as ‘Justices of the Supreme Court’.
In addition, other senior judges may sit as ‘acting judges’ at the request of the President should they be needed.
3. “And Now for Something Completely Different”
The Supreme Court was created following a consultation paper by Department of Constitutional Affairs in 2003. The paper recommended that the House of Lords should have a more obvious split between its function as a Court (which enforces the law) and its function as part of Parliament (which makes laws).
This contributed to the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 which was motivated by concerns that the mix of legislative, judicial and executive power was unlikely to provide an impartial judge or a fair trial.
4. “The Philosopher’s Football Match”
The first case to be heard by the Supreme Court was HM Treasury v Ahmed.
It concerned the powers granted to the government by the United Nations Act 1946 to issue terrorism control orders.The Court found against the government, thus overturning the methods used by the UK to prevent financing for terrorism and forcing the government to pass a new act within a week of the decision.
In its 10 year history, the Supreme Court has decided 818 cases with 59 further cases awaiting hearings.
5. “It’s a Living”
The Supreme Court Justices are appointed as and when a vacancy arises by the Queen.
That process starts with the selection commission which is made up of five members including the President and Deputy President of the Supreme Court, and representatives from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland). They select a candidate to recommend to the Lord Chancellor.
The Lord Chancellor may approve or reject that candidate or ask the commission to reconsider them. If the Lord Chancellor approves the candidate, then the Prime Minister must recommend that person to the Queen who will appoint them to the position of Justice of the Supreme Court. A tricky job interview indeed!
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