International and Comparative Law Quarterly

Shorter Articles, Comments and Notes

Are Judges Beyond Criticism Under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights?

Michael K. Addo*

On the premise that democratic government is founded, inter alia, on the accountability of public bodies and their officials, as well as on the popular participation in collective decision-making by the governed at all levels of government, there is merit in the proposition that it is improper to curb open debate, especially in matters which are of public interest. In so far as the work of the judiciary in general, and of judges in particular, is in the public domain and thus of public interest, the value of the freedom of expression applies, in principle, with equal force. Freedom of expression in the legal domain and in relation to the work of judges serves a variety of useful purposes in democratic society. Freedom of expression serves to uphold the integrity of the principles of democracy which require that governmental institutions should be transparent and accountable, and in that sense the judicial domain, very much like other branches of government, benefits from a healthy exchange and interaction of opinions. The administration of justice is better served by well-informed participants than by ignorance, and freedom of expression can contribute to a full and rigorous assessment of information in the judicial context Similarly, in modern democratic society, all individuals, but especially legal journalists, lawyers and other officials of the legal establishment, contribute to the architecture of judicial policy through the expression of their opinions. Freedom of expression in this context can also prove to be an instrument of individual and professional self-fulfilment. This is considered crucial in any society which is dependent upon the participation of the people.

Footnotes

* Faculty of Law, University of Exeter. I am most grateful to Professor Colin Warbrick, Professor John Bridge, Dr Ralph Beddard and Mr David Perrott, who commented on an earlier version of this article. Any errors in it are, however, my own.