[JURIST] Britain's most senior judge concluded that UK courts are "seriously overstretched" in his first Review of the Administration of Justice in the Courts [PDF text], published Monday. Lord Chief Justice Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers [BBC profile] expressed some frustration with the difficult position he said judges were being increasingly put in by Parliament setting detailed legislative mandates for the judicial process, especially in the criminal context:
Our criminal justice system has been put under pressure by legislation, some of which has reflected the politicization of sentencing. The task of judges and magistrates who have to sentence offenders has been made infinitely more complex by a stream of legislation. The judiciary is willing, if consulted, to advise on the practical implications for the administration of justice of proposed legislation.
Lord Phillips also noted that asylum and immigration cases accounted for 75 percent of all cases filed in the administrative courts, a substantial increase from the previous year, which he attributed to new laws. He further expressed concern with prison overcrowding [JURIST news archive], and suggested that the exclusive jurisdiction of the High Court Judges over judicial review should be reconsidered by Parliament, as "not all work justifies this exclusive jurisdiction." BBC News has more.
Lord Phillips has previously spoken out against perceived problems with the UK justice system. In March 2007, he said [JURIST report] that government sentencing minimums set in 2003 threatened to eventually fill up the country's prisons with "geriatric lifers." In May, he expressed concern over constitutional problems surrounding the split of the Ministry of Justice from the Home Office [official websites]. Lord Phillips is expected to head the UK Supreme Court [JURIST report] when it opens in 2009.