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Speech by Lord Justice Gross: Perspectives on the Criminal Justice System

Perspectives on the Criminal Justice System – Avon and Somerset Guest Lecture Series

It is a great pleasure to be here, at the invitation of the Chief Constable whom I had the pleasure of first meeting some years back and to contribute to the Avon and Somerset Guest Lecture Series. I have taken as my topic tonight, “Perspectives on the Criminal Justice System”.

Without compromising our respective independence, I believe we have much to learn from one another, as professionals in the CJS. We have very different roles, but we each have a strong commitment to justice and I think it is of real value to share our thoughts and views, and most importantly, what we can do to make things better. My role as Senior Presiding Judge requires me to have a constant focus on how we can improve what we are doing for the benefit of the system as a whole, but it cannot be done alone – the Criminal Justice System (“CJS”) is an inter-connected system and depends on all interested parties doing what they are obliged to do.

I should make one matter clear at the outset; though in what I say I am necessarily mindful of my position as a serving Judge, the views I express to you here are my own. The notion that the Judiciary is homogenous and has only one view on any topic, is simply unreal.

Returning to reality, there is much of which we can and should be proud. Complacency would be unforgivable but excessive navel-gazing is unhealthy. We can properly lay claim to a society in which the rule of law prevails, upheld by a Judiciary of unquestioned probity and independence. We have in our Police a Service tracing its proud history to the reforms of Sir Robert Peel, brilliantly described in Douglas Hurd’s biography and which furnished the country with a police force which was not military in nature – indeed its establishment served to ensure that in the case of disorder, the army was not called in prematurely (thus assisting in preserving stability in the tumultuous year of 1848 when other European States were tottering).

Against this background, I take as my three principal themes this evening:

  1. the Rule of Law and the independence of the judiciary;
  2. maintaining public confidence in the CJS;
  3. work in progress.

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