Friday, 18 March 2011

Fewer judges at European Court, says Clarke

The Government has already indicated it will use its presidency of the Council of Europe later this year to try and bring about changes to the European Court.

While chatting with Lobbydog recently, Justice Secretary Ken Clarke hinted at the kind of reform they’ll pursue.

He said: “We could probably do with fewer judges and we need to have a look at the quality of the judges and how they are appointed.

“They are reasonable, but there are some that have not sat as judges before going to the European Court, they are academic lawyers.

“They sit on panels and it might make things better if we reduce the size of those panels.”

This comes on the back of recent problems over the European Court’s ruling that gives British prisoners voting rights.

By law the Government must comply, even though Parliament rejected the ruling in a non-binding vote last month.

Ministers have instead said they want to go back to the European Court and work with it to see how the issue can be resolved.

Perhaps a threat to reform the court will prove a handy stick in any talks.

Clarke also said the court needed new powers to deal with trivial matters quickly to cut back on a backlog of cases.

He was reluctant to make any big promises on when changes would be delivered, pointing out that any reform would have to be agreed by 47 countries.

Clarke did say that the UK had some good allies in their desire for reform though – the UK’s goal will be “to move the issue along significantly” rather than achieve solid reform within its presidency period.

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