Judicial appointments: Senior officer calls for Welsh representative to the UK Supreme Court

Judicial appointments: Senior officer calls for Welsh representative to the UK Supreme Court

The senior law officer for Wales has called for a Welsh representative to be appointed to the UK Supreme Court, and for it to be a mandatory requirement that a Welsh judge is always among its number.

The call comes as the Welsh assembly ponders a move for greater judicial autonomy, by launching a consultation on whether or not Wales could develop a devolved Court of Appeal and its own Ministry of Justice.

The move comes as governments on both sides of the border face up to the reality that Wales is increasingly being run by different laws. This follows the creation of the Welsh assembly under Labour, and devolution of increased legislative powers to the Welsh last year.

Theodore Huckle is the counsel general to the Welsh Government, the equivalent of the attorney general to the UK Government. He has spoken out on the possibility of greater devolution of law making powers to the Welsh assembly.

“Because the Welsh Government gained enhanced legislative powers last year, it’s an appropriate time to launch this consultation. What happens in Scotland, where a vote on independence is to be held in 2014, could change everything as far as the constitutional arrangements of the UK are concerned,” he said in an interview with the Guardian.

The Welsh lost judicial autonomy in 1536, when Henry VIII’s parliament abolished lordships in the Welsh Marches and prohibited the use of Welsh language in court.

However, Mr Huckle says that devolution of law is not about independence from the UK.

“There was a recent poll showing only 7% of people are now in favour of independence: that rises to 9% if Scotland goes,” he said.

At present both the criminal and civil divisions of the Court of Appeal sit in Wales three weeks a year. This has prompted supporters of the move to claim that a devolved Ministry of Justice, or a Welsh division of the ministry, should sit across the border.

The Supreme Court currently has one justice from Northern Ireland and two from Scotland, many senior Welsh judges now believe that there should be one from Wales as well.

Related links:

Read more on the story (The Guardian)

Devolved government in the UK (FindLaw)

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