A former Supreme Court justice says if the PM breaches an injunction he could be sent to prisonby Alex Dean / October 16, 2019 / Leave a comment
The prime minister is behaving in a way that was previously inconceivable. Boris Johnson’s decision to prorogue parliament was struck down by the highest court in the land and several further legal challenges are in the works. There is now fear he will attempt to wriggle out of legislation to prevent no deal, prompting further appeals to the courts.
How alarmed should we be? And what might be the role of the courts in the coming weeks? To find out, I sat down with John Dyson, one of Britain’s most respected legal figures. Dyson was on the Supreme Court himself from 2010-2012 and was Master of the Rolls and Head of Civil Justice from 2012-2016, one of our most senior legal posts dating back to the 13th century. Now 76, his latest book A Judge’s Journey is a fascinating memoir of his life which also reflects on his time in the judiciary.
When we met in Essex Chambers, Dyson answered my questions with a seriousness in keeping with the gravity of the political situation. Does the prime minister respect the rule of law? “Who knows? He’s such a difficult man to weigh up,” Dyson said, adding “I think he will observe the rule of law. I suspect he will push the boundaries as far as he can.
“There’s a lot of evidence that the thing that drives him really is his ambition, and his desire to win the next election and to be prime minister for as long as he can. That’s just the sense I have, because he’s so all over the place. He’s so inconsistent.” Dyson added: “Who knows whether he knows himself” his next course of action?
The biggest worry now concerns the Benn Act. This law says that if parliament does not approve a Brexit deal, or no deal, by 19th October, Johnson must request an extension to Article 50. The government has given assurances in the courts that the PM will act in accordance with the law. Yet No 10 has aggressively briefed that Johnson will not seek a delay. If the PM refuses to meet his obligation, would the courts forcefully intervene?
“I suspect he will push the boundaries as far as he can”
“That is, of course, a possibility,”…