Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A Matter of Conscience

The BBC reports that a Roman Catholic magistrate has resigned to avoid having to be involved in placing children for adoption by same-sex couples. Of course if a magistrate finds his conscience in conflict with the law he must either enforce the law of the land or resign: there is a principled case to be made for either course of action, but two things puzzle me about this case:- firstly why did the JP not simply withdraw from Family Panel work (the BBC article is not quite clear, but I am assuming that he has resigned from the Bench) and secondly why is an Industrial Tribunal getting involved? Being a magistrate is not employment, and we are appointed by the Lord Chancellor on behalf of the Crown. What is he asking the Tribunal to order? What power does it have anyway? Surely it cannot be right that a Tribunal would insist that Parliament can only pass laws that do not impinge on the conscience of the judiciary?
This is a mystery, and I shall be interested to see how things turn out.

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