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UK CJ says judges, government 'poles apart' on new justice ministry

[JURIST] The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales told a British parliamentary committee [prepared statement] Tuesday that top judges were very concerned with the establishment of the new Ministry of Justice (MOJ) [official website] after they and the government failed to reach any agreement on resolution of constitutional problems surrounding the ministry's recent split [JURIST report] from the Home Office [official website]. Lord Phillips described the two sides as "poles apart" [Financial Times report] on measures for the protection of judicial independence under the new arrangement and concerns that court resources will suffer in favor of jails and prisons, also included under the new ministry's jurisdiction. He slammed the split as a political device designed to let Home Secretary John Reid concentrate on terrorism and said that the Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer had been sidelined in the process and had been reduced to learning about the plan in the newspaper. Phillips insisted a "fundamental review" of the constitutional problems posed by the split was necessary in light of the creation of the MOJ.

Last week, a crisis meeting of top British judges called for constitutional protections for the judiciary [JURIST report] in the face of the new ministry. BBC News has more. The Guardian has additional coverage.

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