Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Denison Launches Attack on Irvine and Justice System

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Denison Launches Attack on Irvine and Justice System

Article excerpt

Byline: PAUL CHESTON

ONE OF Britain's most experienced judges today launched a stinging attack on the "sinister" shadow of political correctness in the criminal justice system which he believes is strangling freedom of speech.

Judge Neil Denison QC, who holds the historic position of Common Ser-jeant of London, bitterly criticised successive ministers for imposing contradictory and complicated sentencing demands which restricted the independence of judges.

He also attacked the Lord Chancellor Lord Irvine for spending "heaven knows what" on glossy magazines and setting up departments seemingly intent just on sending each other statistics while imposing swingeing cuts on the courts.

British justice was heading down the road of American justice and "any reputable American lawyer would say that is a road that should be avoided," he concluded. Judge Denison, 72, delivered his speech to the number one court of the Old Bailey packed with the cream of the country's criminal judges and barristers, on the day of his retirement.

He told them he was leaving with mixed emotions because he had "peered into the future and I don't like much of what I can see there".

"I see a criminal justice system which is treated by Government and Opposition alike as a political football. A new Criminal Justice Act is an annual event each one of which when not contradicting the previous one, brings ever more complicated sentencing provisions and restricts the discretion, and therefore the independence, of judges," he said.

"Over all this hangs the cloud of political correctness. …

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