13:24, June 29 154 0

2017-06-29 13:24:06
Supreme Court reports £12.5m of spending in Article 50 challenge year

The Article 50 case was “truly exceptional” and helped to “undermine the Court’s place in the constitution”, Lord Neuberger has said his final forward to the court’s annual report released today.

The court’s net operating cost increased from £4.5m to £4.8m in 2016/17, with the court spending £12.5m during the period. Almost half of this amount corresponds to judicial and staff costs. The court recouped almost £8m in court fees, contributions from the UK court services and other income.

Lord Neuberger, who is due to retire over the summer, praised the court’s handling of the Article 50 case, which reached the Supreme Court at the end of 2016. “Undoubtedly, the highest profile of our cases arose out of the appeal brought by the Government in December 2016, on the proper constitutional process for triggering Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon,” he wrote.

“This case was truly exceptional for the Court, not least because all 11 current Justices sat to give judgment, and it placed a considerable demand on the Court’s staff, who rose magnificently to the occasion. We were able to hear the case in relatively short order, to accommodate an unprecedented number of legal teams, to provide extensive overflow viewing facilities for members of the public as well as seats in court, and to deliver judgment by the end of January by it was able to hear Miller’s case “in relatively short order” and “accommodate an unprecedented number of legal teams, to provide extensive overflow viewing facilities for members of the public as well as seats in court, and to deliver judgment by the end of January”.

In the landmark case Mishcon de Reya acted for private client Gina Miller, who put it to the court that parliamentary approval was required to trigger Article 50, the means by which the UK can leave the European Union.

A sign of the unprecedented nature of the case, highlighted by the retiring president, is the fact that it has been downloaded 35,000 times from the Supreme Court website.

The case receives its own section in the report, which further reiterates its legal and political importance. It highlights the judges’ awareness of the gravity of the case.

“The immediate political implications were clear and the UK Government accepted the Court’s decision, placing a bill before Parliament to give authority to minister to trigger Article 50.

The longer term legal impact of the decisions is less clear to predict, and for others to assess. But what is certain is that the case represented a landmark for the Supreme Court, propelling the institution into the public consciousness to an extent not seen previously.

“Our hope is that the manner in which the proceedings were conduced and the steps taken to encourage access to the hearing will have helped promote a better understanding of our work, and indeed the role of all those involved in such litigation in upholding the rule of law as a pillar of democracy.”

The report goes on to say that online viewing figures from the UKSC, BBC and ITN website feeds totalled more than 300,000 on the first day of the hearing, and that 90 journalists were accredited to cover the case.

Last week, it emerged that the government is facing another legal challenge. Edwin Coe, who acted for Deir Dos Santos if the Article 50 case, launched legal action against the now done-deal between the Conservatives and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), saying it breaches the “rigorously impartiality” of the Good Friday Agreement.