Unrealistic to expect ‘complete doctrinal coherence’ from judges, Lady Hale says
It is “unrealistic to expect complete doctrinal coherence” from judges, the president of the UK Supreme Court, Lady Hale, has said.
In a speech delivered on Friday, the top judge said there is “a great deal of pragmatism” in public law and that pragmatic considerations are even “creeping into our application of the principle of legality”.
She made the comments in a speech entitled “Principle and Pragmatism in Public Law”, which she delivered in Cambridge as the Sir David Williams Lecture 2019.
Opening the speech, Lady Hale said it was more difficult to identify examples in public law of judicial pragmatism overcoming principle in comparison to private law, which she explored in a lecture earlier this year.
However, she concluded that judicial deference and the doctrine of legitimate expectation represent pragmatism over principle, and that pragmatic considerations are even “creeping into our application of the principle of legality”.
She finished: “The trouble is that real judges have to make judgments in real cases involving real people and it is unrealistic to expect complete doctrinal coherence of them – though I suspect that many people do.”