The official listing of forthcoming hearings by the Law Lords has now been published online:
JUDICIAL SITTING FOR TRINITY TERM 2008 (.pdf)
(Tuesday 3 June - Thursday 31 July)
(Sittings commence: 11.00 am on Monday, 10.30 am on Tuesday - Thursday)
Monday 16 June
Committee Room 1
McKinnon (Appellant) v Government of the United States (Respondents) and another
Members of the Public are allowed to watch the proceedings of a Law Lords hearing - see the Watch judicial hearings web page.
The House of Lords acts as a Supreme Court of Appeal for the UK. Full-time professional judges called the Law Lords hear public judicial hearings. Anyone can attend a judicial hearing and there is no need to arrange access in advance.
When, where and what are they like?
Hearings run throughout the year and take place from Monday to Thursday.
When hearing appeals, around five Law Lords meet in an Appellate Committee, which is usually located in Committee Room 1. The Law Lords hear about 85 appeals a year.
The hearings are relatively informal. Judges dress in business suits rather than robes and sit around a horseshoe table on the same level as those attending.
Appeals being heard and directions
If you are coming to watch a judicial hearing please inform a visitor assistant or a police officer when you arrive at St Stephen's entrance - they will direct you to the right queue.
Given the numbers of tourists and the long queues to get though the airport style security at the main St Stephens entrance, you need to get there an hour beforehand, i.e. 10:00 am ahead of the 11:00am start on a Monday, as the space for the public and the media is limited in the Committee Rooms, and is on a first come, first served basis.
As you would expect from the most senior Judges in the UK, they sit on the Crossbenches (i.e. neither the Government nor the Opposition) in the House of Lords, and never vote on legislation, although they occasionally speak or present a report.
Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers is Master of the Rolls, i.e. the third most senior Judge in England and Wales just below the Lord Chancellor (a politician) and the Lord Chief Justice.
Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood currently was until recently as the Intelligence Services Commissioner, who is supposed to investigate the activities of the UK intelligence agencies MI5 the Security Service, MI6 the Secret Intelligence Service and GCHQ (the UK partner of the US National Security Agency) and the UK military, with regard to electronic snooping and interception of communications or other forms of surveillance, covert human intelligence sources etc.
Given that his Annual Reports to Parliament have never criticised any of these agencies, dies that mean that he is likely to be inherently sympathetic to the US Government ?
Baroness Hale of Richmond, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood and Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury also recently sat on the European Arrest Warrant appeal, which overturned a writ of Habeas Corpus, and allowed the Extradition of Farid Hilali to Spain, which may prove to be of relevance in whether they decide to trust any promises or assurances given by the US Government.
Hopefully these particular law Lords will be reminded of the fact that the Spanish authorities ignored and flouted their Judgment, once they had their prisoner in their power - Judgments - In re Hilali (Respondent) (application for a writ of Habeas Corpus). The UK Law Lords had ruled that Hilali should only be extradited to face the more serious of the two charges against him in Spain, and not the lesser, probably easier to prove one. All the evidence that case is also purely electronic and international, as with Gary McKinnon's case.
The Spanish authorities have utterly ignored this UK Law Lords judgment and have perversely done exactly the opposite - charged Hilali with the lesser offence, and not the one which the UK Law Lords permitted him to be extradited on.
Baroness Hale's hopes for "... a spirit of mutual trust and respect and not in a spirit of suspicion and disrespect" seem to have been dashed. Once bitten, twice shy ?
If the Judgments of the Law Lords are not even respected and obeyed by fellow European Union countries like Spain, why should they be respected or obeyed by the United States government ?
It is usually several weeks or months after a hearing, before the Law Lords actually publish a Judgment in this, or any other, case before them.