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Atkin Lecture by Lord Justice Beatson – Judicial Independence: Internal and External Challenges and Opportunities


It is a great honour to be invited to give this lecture. Lord Atkin’s paradigm changing speech in Donoghue v Stevenson and his dissent in Liversidge v Anderson are known to all lawyers and law students, but his illuminating contributions stretch across many areas of private and public law. Professor Robert Stevens, a pioneer of scholarship on the judiciary in this country and a member of this club, stated that “between 1930 and 1940, no law lord had greater influence in the House of Lords”.

Lord Atkin was one of the cadre of judges appointed by Lord Haldane who believed in appointments based on “high legal and professional qualification” rather than political affiliations. There are, no doubt, many examples from his career which have some resonance to the question of judicial independence today. His dissent in Liversidge v Anderson showed he was courageously independent, and an aspect of the saga provides a telling example of a challenge to the internal independence of the judiciary.

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