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Speech by The Right Hon. The Lord Burnett of Maldon: Dinner for Her Majesty’s Judges 2018

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This is my first Judges’ Dinner as Lord Chief Justice. It provides me with an opportunity to express my profound thanks to the judges gathered here, and to the judiciary as a whole, for the outstanding hard work done in upholding the rule of law and administering justice in our country, often in very difficult circumstances. The judiciary deals with countless thousands of cases every day, with a workload that grows ever heavier and more complex.  The work done in the Royal Courts of Justice and Rolls Building by the Court of Appeal and High Court represents only a tiny fraction of that done across the country by nearly two thousand salaried judges in the courts and tribunals, almost 7000 part-time fee-paid judicial office holders and some 16,000 magistrates. Every criminal case, every civil dispute, every family case and those in the tribunals represents an important, often life-changing, event for the people involved.  They both deserve and receive careful and impartial attention from our judges in whatever court or tribunal they dispense justice.

It is said that the judiciary are the guardians of the rule of law. That is undoubtedly true, for without an independent judiciary able to state authoritatively what the law is, and to adjudicate impartially on disputes of every nature, the rule of law would be no more than a high-minded phrase. Whilst that proposition is, I think, incontrovertible the judiciary cannot uphold the rule of law or administer justice in splendid isolation. The rule of law is underpinned by a partnership, with each partner playing its proper role. Parliament and the Government by statute must provide the resources, financial and administrative, necessary to maintain the courts system. Many other public bodies and agencies play their parts.  So too does a vibrant, independent legal profession. It has been more than 300 years since the rule of law in a form we would recognise today was planted in our constitutional arrangements by the Glorious Revolution.  It has grown strong.  Its roots are so deeply embedded that few give it a second thought.  But like all well-established plants it needs constant nourishment, care and attention as well as some reshaping.

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