Judicial Impartiality: Involvement, Opinion and the Judicial Oath

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Challenges to the decisions of courts on the grounds of want of independence or impartiality have been an increasingly frequent occurrence since the enactment of the Human Rights Act 1998.1 Quite why this should be so is not entirely clear, because the relevant portion of the European Convention on Human Rights2 does no more than restate the long-standing common law principle that the courts must be independent and impartial,3 an ideal embodied in the familiar artistic image of justice being depicted blindfold. However, since 1999 there have been many such cases, perhaps
the most prominent of the English decisions being R v Bow Street Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrate and Others, ex parte Pinochet Ugarte (No 2)4 and in Scotland Starrs v Ruxton,5 which led to the abolition of the post of temporary sheriff for want of apparent independence. But, whatever the cause, as the courts have become increasingly sensitive to accusations of bias and as the grounds for challenges have correspondingly widened, so inevitably have the numbers of appeals based on those grounds.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)312-316
Number of pages5
JournalEdinburgh Law Review
Publication statusPublished - May 2009


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