Letters to New Law Journal
Financing the Courts
Note by Francis Bennion
I have written before about various aspects of judicial
independence (see for example 2004.014).
In the letter below my subject is the need for judges to control the finances needed
for provision of court buildings, staff and other
judicial services. Square brackets indicate editorial omissions.
157 NLJ (15 Jun 2007) 825
||Doc. No. 2007.013 NLJ034L
The illuminating article by Sir Geoffrey Bindman (NLJ,
18 May 2007, p 681) touches on several key areas. One that has long troubled me was [thus]
identified by Lord Bingham of Cornhill in his 2000 Presidential address to the Bentham
‘If it is accepted (as it is) that the exercise of
judicial authority should be separated from the exercise of executive and legislative
authority, then institutions through which
judicial authority is exercised – all of them - should reflect that separation’.
other words the courts should be administered and financed under the control of the judiciary
not the executive.
[In Bentham’s day the courts had an independent existence
because they were financed by fees paid directly to their judges by litigants, a system
did not approve. Perhaps we should turn to an updated version of that, with appropriate
In the 11th F A Mann lecture delivered in 1987 Lord Browne-Wilkinson
said that the assessment of judicial need for a facility is not for ministers but judges.
Yet] gradually, since
the Beeching Commission of 1969, ministers, under Treasury direction, have come to
expenditure on the courts. [(So stated by Lord Justice Thomas in his 2004 Combar lecture.)]
his article Sir Geoffrey says that many problems of our legal system are due to failure
by the Treasury under Gordon Brown to provide adequate resources. The future
are intensely worrying. Can we hope for anything better under a new and perhaps more
enlightened Chancellor of the Exchequer, now Mr Brown has (nearly) gone from that
post? It seems unlikely.