Are judges now out of their depth?

Are judges now out of their depth? was the timely title Professor Conor Gearty of the LSE chose for his lecture. In an extended metaphor, Professor Gearty imagined the public sphere as a swimming pool. At the shallow end were issues – criminal justice, fair proceedings, civil liberties – where the judicial function was uncontroversial. At the deep end lay social policy, taxation and foreign policy – issues beyond the remit of the judges. The area of current debate centres on the middle of the pool – where judges are ‘on their tip-toes striving to stay upright’ and where they may be tempted to start swimming. Professor Gearty’s answer to his own question was three-pronged:

  • the judges are not now out of their depth, but they must be on their guard against becoming so
  • if the judges do find themselves out of their depth they must resist the temptation to swim
  • an understanding of the proper judicial role is essential if the integrity

Tom Sargant was JUSTICE’s Secretary from the organisation’s foundation in 1957 to his retirement in 1982.


Are Judges now out of their depth