Tom Bingham, 'the most eminent of our judges' (Guardian), held office successively as Master of the Rolls, Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales and Senior Law Lord of the United Kingdom, the only person ever to hold all three offices. He became a life peer, as Baron Bingham of Cornhill in the County of Powys, on becoming Lord Chief Justice in 1996. In 2005 he was appointed a Knight of the Garter, the first professional judge to be so honoured. He retired in 2008, and in the same year was elected by the Institut de France as the first winner of the Prize for Law awarded by the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation.
The Rule of Lawby Tom Bingham
'The Rule of Law' is a phrase much used but little examined. The idea of the rule of law as the foundation of modern states and civilisations has recently become even more talismanic than that of democracy, but what does it actually consist of? In this brilliant short book, Britain's former senior law lord, and one of the world's most acute legal minds, examines
'The Rule of Law' is a phrase much used but little examined. The idea of the rule of law as the foundation of modern states and civilisations has recently become even more talismanic than that of democracy, but what does it actually consist of? In this brilliant short book, Britain's former senior law lord, and one of the world's most acute legal minds, examines what the idea actually means. He makes clear that the rule of law is not an arid legal doctrine but is the foundation of a fair and just society, is a guarantee of responsible government, is an important contribution to economic growth and offers the best means yet devised for securing peace and co-operation. He briefly examines the historical origins of the rule, and then advances eight conditions which capture its essence as understood in western democracies today. He also discusses the strains imposed on the rule of law by the threat and experience of international terrorism. The book will be influential in many different fields and should become a key text for anyone interested in politics, society and the state of our world.
- Penguin Publishing Group
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Tom Bingham, Lord Chief Justice 1996-2008, presents eight parts of the rule of law: The law must be accessible and so far as possible intelligible, clear and predictable. Questions of legal right and liability should ordinarily be resolved by application of the law and not the exercise of discretion. Laws should apply equally to all, unless objective differences justify differentiation. Ministers and public officers at all levels must exercise the powers conferred on them in good faith, fairly, for the purpose for which the powers were conferred, without exceeding the limits of such powers and not unreasonably. The law must afford adequate protection of fundamental human rights. Means must be provided for resolving, without prohibitive cost or inordinate delay, bona fide civil disputes which the parties themselves are unable to resolve. Adjudicative procedures provided by the state should be fair. The rule of law requires compliance by the state with its obligations in international law as in national law. The European Convention on Human Rights (1950) was effected here by the Human Rights Act (1998). It says, "No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." (The US Bill of Rights bans the infliction of 'cruel and unusual punishments'.) It bans slavery and forced labour - -even for benefits. It asserts the rights to life, liberty and security, to a fair trial, and to respect for privacy and family life. It upholds freedom of thought, conscience, religion, expression, assembly and association. Article 1 of its Protocols protects: "Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law. . The preceding provisions shall not, however, in any way impair the right of the State to enforce such laws as it deems necessary to control the use of property in accordance with the general interest or to secure the payment of taxes or other contributions or penalties." Article 2 asserts the right to education. Bingham argues that "The rule of law requires that the law afford adequate protection of fundamental human rights." A Constitution is not enough, nor is a merely rhetorical commitment to the rule of law. He looks at terrorism's impact on the rule of law and urges that our responses be lawful, not a mimicry of the terrorists' actions. He warns, "it cannot be said that the UK has shown that implacable opposition to torture and its fruits which might have been expected of the state whose courts led the world in rejecting them both. In a sequel to the Belmarsh case . the Government argued that evidence obtained by torture abroad without the complicity of the British authorities could be considered by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, a contention which the House of Lords unanimously and strongly rejected." Finally, he states, "The invasion of Iraq was 'a serious violation of international law and of the rule of law'.