The new British Supreme Court has opened for the first time today.

Lord Neuberger, the Master of the Rolls (or "The Keeper or Master of the Rolls and Records of the Chancery of England" - the second most senior judge of England and Wales, after the Lord Chief Justice), said that the new judges would be more powerful and less accountable than the old Law Lords.

The first 11 judges were sworn in today, in the glorious, spring-like sunshine. And, unlike in more traditionless nations where the judges wear ordinary suits and ties, these judges were resplendent in their black and gold robes, though they will not wear the wigs that Britain's other judges and people of court always wear.

The Supreme Court is the court of last resort for all matters in English law, Welsh law, and Northern Irish law. It has no say in Scottish matters (Scotland has a separate legal system) but can hear appeals from Scotland's Court of Session.

The new court is based at the Middlesex Guildhall in North London.

The designs of the new court are very British.

The court's symbol features the flowers of each of the four parts of the UK - the red rose of England, the thistle of Scotland, the flax of Northern Ireland and the leek of Wales.

The carpets were designed by pop artist Peter Blake, best known for producing The Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover. They also feature the court's new logo.

Ornate carvings of monarchs such as Henry VIII adorn the sides of the benches.

And, in the Supreme Court library, a large plaque spells out the principal that 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.'

No more into the breeches: Britain's 'modern' Superior Court opens as 11 new wig-less Justices swear themselves in

By Steve Doughty
01st October 2009
Daily Mail

The new British Supreme Court set up by Tony Blair opened for business today in the shadow of a warning from one of the former Law Lords.

Lord Neuberger - who has declined a seat in the new court - said that the judges of the new court would be more powerful and less accountable than the old Law Lords.

The judge - who left the ranks of the Law Lords to become Master of the Rolls - said that the establishment of the new court would effect the life and functions of its judges and they would 'subconsciously perhaps' gather power to themselves.

Historic: The 11 Justices of the new Supreme Court, headed by Lord Phillips (centre), swore themselves in today behind closed doors, although the ceremony was filmed for television

The first 11 judges of the new court - which opens in a building which cost 60million to redevelop and where hearings will cost 20,000 an hour - were sworn in today. The first case - on a terrorism issue - will be heard next week.

In a hint that the Supreme Court may not live up to the highest hopes of its founder, the judges were sworn in behind closed doors, filmed for television while the public was barred.

The exclusion of ordinary people clashes with the claims of the President of the court, Lord Phillips, who said it would allow the public to see the workings of the top tier of the justice system.

Lord Neuberger's warning was given on BBC Radio Four's Top Dogs programme.

He said: 'To change the Law Lords into the Supreme Court as a result of what appears to have been a last-minute decision over a glass of whisky seems to me to verge on the frivolous.

'The danger is you muck around with a constitution at your peril, because you don't know what the consequences of any change will be.'

After the swearing-in ceremony, the new justices joined the annual procession to Westminster Abbey to attend the service that marks the start of the new legal year

Supreme fashion: The members of the new highest court in the land modelled their 'modern' wig-less outfit

Mr Blair created the new court with a stroke of his pen in his controversial reshuffle in July 2003. His critics say it was part of a plan dreamed up over a glass of whisky to oust his first Lord Chancellor Derry Irvine, once Mr Blair's boss in barristers' chambers, and replace him with Lord Falconer, once Mr Blair's flatmate.

The new court has long been unpopular with judges. Lord Woolf, Lord Chief Justice in 2003, learned of its establishment from Sky News and it took ministers months to assuage his anger. Then the judges were roused to fury again in 2007 when news of the creation of the new Ministry of Justice was announced through a leak to a Sunday newspaper.

Advocates of the Supreme Court say it will advance the constitution by separating the judges from Parliament and ensuring their independence.

However judges will continue to be appointed by the Lord Chancellor, currently Jack Straw. And, while the openly political appointments of judges to the United States Supreme Court are always challenged by Congressional committees, no-one will be able to challenge appointments to the British Supreme Court.

Exterior: The Superior Court building is a 60million renovation of the old Middlesex Guildhall

Motto: The Supreme Court library spells out the principal that 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere'

Lord Phillips said today: 'For the first time, we have a clear separation of powers between the legislature, the judiciary and the executive in the United Kingdom.

'This is important. It emphasises the independence of the judiciary, clearly separating those who make the law from those who administer it.

'As Justices of the Supreme Court we will be more visible to the public than we ever were when sitting as members of the House of Lords. This is desirable as the court will only decide points of law of public importance.

'Justice at the highest level should be transparent and the new Court will have a crucial role in letting the public see how justice is done.'

Following the private swearing in, the new justices joined the annual procession in their wigs and robes to Westminster Abbey to attend the service that marks the start of the new legal year.
Opulent: The court is a converted Grade II listed art nouveau gothic building

They were joined by judges from the Royal Courts of Justice in The Strand and went on attend the Lord Chancellor's breakfast in the Great Hall in Parliament.

The 60million renovation of the old Middlesex Guildhall for the new court has included 50,000 for a logo based on national flowers of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The emblem is represented on carpets, curtains, doors, partitions and over the judges as they sit in the three main courtrooms.

The royal coat of arms, used as a symbol of authority in most courts, has been relegated to a single appearance above the main door of the court.

Grand: The badges of the Supreme Court is sewn on the coats worn by the Justices (left), while delicately carved dragons lie on top of the seats inside the court itself (right)

Henry VIII (left) is one of many portraits featured on the ornate carvings while the carpet pattern is made up of emblems representing England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (right)

Another royal demotion has been suffered by a statue of Edward Vll which used to stand in the main entrance. The statue, with the carved inscription Emperor 1901-1910, now sits by the serving counter in the Supreme Court canteen.

Carpets were designed by pop artist Peter Blake, best known for producing The Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover.

Wood panelling extends beyond the court rooms to the judges' library to staff areas, including the office of chief executive Jenny Rowe.

Last edited by Blackleaf; Oct 1st, 2009 at 11:04 AM..