Following remarks about the peaceful nature of Islam by Mr Justice Haddon-Cave, above, the National Secular Society has asked the Justice Secretary David Gauke to ensure judges keep theology out of their courtrooms.
According to this report, the NSS wrote to Gauke after both a watchdog and an ombudsman dismissed complaints about the judge’s claims during trials that Islam “is a religion of peace”.
In March, during the trial of the Parsons Green bomber, Haddon-Cave told the defendant Ahmed Hassan that “the Qur’an is a book of peace” and Islam “is a religion of peace”. The judge added that Hassan had:
Violated the Qur’an and Islam by your actions.
And he said the terrorist would have:
Plenty of time to study the Qur’an in prison.
The NSS said such remarks:
Ran the risk of undermining the judicial principle of neutrality and impartiality.
It asked Gauke to:
Protect and advance the principles of justice by ensuring that judicial office holders restrict themselves to interpreting the law of the land, rather than religious doctrine.
In the letter NSS Chief Executive Stephen Evans wrote:
We believe that by expressing a particular view of a particular faith and judging a defendant according to that view, judges run the risk of undermining the judicial principle of neutrality and impartiality.There is no provision in English law for judges to base their judgments on anything other than the law and the facts of the case, as they objectively see them.
We have little doubt that Justice Haddon-Cave’s remarks were well-intentioned, but it is profoundly unwise for judges to engage in theological interpretation.
Both the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office (JCIO) and the judicial ombudsman have refused to act on the remarks.
Since the NSS appealed to the ombudsman Haddon-Cave has repeated his words almost verbatim, at the conclusion of the trial of Naa’imur Zakariyah Rahman in August. Rahman was convicted of a plot to kill the Prime Minister.
It is very disappointing that the watchdogs supposedly responsible for holding judges to account have failed to recognise the importance of upholding judicial impartiality regarding matters of religion.
The state employs judges to uphold the law of the land. It doesn’t employ them to defend ideology.
People facing charges in court should be held accountable to secular law, not the precepts of their religion. Judges’ personal opinions on the tenets, doctrines or rules of any particular religion are wholly irrelevant to the administration of justice.
Secularism is a vital part of any judicial system which defends the rights of all citizens to equal and fair treatment before the law.