Monckton members featured in Lord Neuberger’s top five Supreme Court cases

17 Oct 2014

In order to mark five years since the opening of the Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger was interviewed by the Independent on Sunday, and selected the five most significant cases to be heard by the Court in its first five years. Two of the cases featured members of Monckton Chambers.

In Al Rawi & Ors v Security Service & Ors, Daniel Beard QC acted on behalf of the appellants, Security Service & Ors. The case is summarised in the article as follows:

Should protecting national security trump the long-held British legal principle of open justice? That was the point at issue in the case of Al Rawi after a series of former inmates from US-run prisons, including Guantanamo Bay tried to bring claims against UK security services for contributing to their detention, rendition and mistreatment.

To fight the case, the security services said they must be allowed to give evidence to the judge in secret in the interests of national security – resulting in a situation where the former prisoners may have their claim dismissed on the basis of evidence that neither they nor their legal teams had seen.

The Supreme Court decided such an arrangement “simply wasn’t possible”, adding: “However sympathetic one might be to the security services wanting to produce evidence to exonerate themselves, we felt we simply couldn’t approve a trial process which undermined one of the most fundamental principles of a fair trial: that each side hears and sees all the evidence and arguments put before the judge by the other side.”

In HS2 judicial reviews, Kassie Smith QC acted for the second appellants, Buckinghamshire County Council and others. This case is described in the article as follows:

Campaigners opposing the high-speed rail link between London and the North-west (HS2) sought a judicial review of the Government’s plans – specifically whether they complied with EU environmental directives.

The court unanimously dismissed the appeal, saying that until Parliament reached a final decision on the HS2 scheme, its merits remained open to debate. In doing so, said Lord Neuberger, it fired a “warning shot” across the bows of the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg.

“We criticised the EU court for saying the directives in question meant something different from that which, frankly, they naturally meant,” he said. “We said that was wrong in principle. That’s not what a court should do. The law should be made by the European Commission and the ministers, not the judges rewriting directives.”

The Supreme Court also criticised observations made in Strasbourg that courts should monitor parliamentary debate. Lord Neuberger described this as “completely contrary” to the long-established British view that judges shouldn’t “poke their noses into what’s going on in Parliament”, adding: “We thought this was risking blurring that important separation.”


The Supreme Court has sat on 508 days over five years, hearing 382 appeals and handing down 344 judgments.

To read the full interview in The Independent, please click here.