Wednesday, March 09, 2011

The Law Commission on judicial transparency

The Law Commission is currently engaged in reviewing the Judicature Act - the core law which governs the operation of our courts. As part of this review, they have produced an issues paper [PDF] on the need for a register Of judges’ pecuniary interests.

I've given the paper a quick browse, and it seems they take the judges' side on this: the law as it stands is currently adequate (*cough* Justice Wilson *cough*), there's no problem, and we should all stop poking our noses into the interests of our betters, who might not be willing to work as judges if forced to prove (rather than merely assert, and jail anyone who questions) their integrity. These arguments can of course be applied to MPs and Ministers, and I think they deserve the same response: the integrity of our governing system is too important for us to take on faith. In a democracy, we have a right to know that everything is above board. Secrecy allows us to be exploited. Transparency is our best defence. And in the modern world we expect that transparency as of right.

The Greens get this - they put up the member's bill which has forced the Law Commission to look at this topic. So does Labour. What's shocking is that the Law Commission, who have previously advocated transparency, don't. But then, they've had a change of personnel - and are now headed by a judge. Suddenly, their conclusions don't look so surprising after all...

The issues paper is open for submissions until 1 June. Submission details are here.