How do judges protect civil liberties?



The Judiciary and Civil Liberties


Assignment 2


The principle defenders of citizens rights are the courts of law. If a citizen feels that a police woman has exceeded her authority and detained them for too long, or an editor feels that he is being prevented from publishing an article critical of a minister, they can go to court. It is possible for a judge to declare that the action of the police woman was wrong or that the article should be published. If the citizen does not like the ruling of the English judge, he or she can appeal to the European Court of Human Rights - and if that court feels that the English judge was wrong, and the citizens rights were violated, then it can overturn the English judges’ ruling, and English courts have to obey that decision.


The role of the judges is vital here. A judge ruled that an operation to separate Siamese twins could go ahead, even though it would certainly lead to the death of one of them. The judge had to consider the rights and wishes of the parents, who opposed the operation, and the rights of the twin who might live, and the rights of the twin brother who would die. Judges had to decide whether farmers had the right to assist the ministry of agriculture officials coming on to their land to slaughter animals possible infected with foot-and-mouth disease.


There is always a concern that the process can be slow and very expensive, and this deters many individuals. Pursuing a case right through to the European court of Human Rights can take several years and the costs can run well into six or seven figures.