23 March 2010 #Dispute Resolution
The House of Lords has been the highest Court in the land for 133 years. Its history, however, can be traced back to the 14th century. On 1 October 2009 that history was swept away when it was renamed the Supreme Court. At the same time, it moved to a dedicated new Court in Middlesex Guildhall - just across Parliament Square from the House of Lords, which is being refurbished at a cost of £77m. It seems that no expense has been spared: the Court features glass walls and doors, a carpet designed by Sir Peter Blake and panels etched with lines from Magna Carta.
On the face of it the changes are cosmetic rather than fundamental. Although it has a new name and a new home the Judges will still be the same and its role, as the ultimate Court of Appeal dealing only with cases of major importance, remains the same.
Not everyone, however, is convinced that there will be no effect on the way in which law is made and conducted in the UK. The creation of the Supreme Court took place without consultation with Judges or the legal community and some are concerned that meddling in this way with a system that has worked for over 100 years not only changes the UK`s unwritten constitution but potentially has wider ramifications. One senior Judge who has expressed his concerns is Lord Neuberger. He has given up his seat as a Judge in the House of Lords to take up a position in the Court of Appeal and has commented: "The danger is that you muck around with a constitution like the British constitution at your peril because you do not know what the consequences of any change will be".
Constitutional lawyers are already enjoying the arguments. Will we have to wait another 133 years to find out the answer?