Today saw the final sitting of the House of Lords in its judicial function. This is a constitutionally historic day as it finally sees the end of the judiciary sitting as part of the legislature. The legislature and the Judiciary are at last separate from one another.
Friday will see the Law Lords packing up and moving to the new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, where they will begin sitting in October. The current Law Lords will remain peers of the House, but will be unable to partake in activities in the House of Lords while they are still sitting in the Supreme Court.
The House of Lords is currently the highest court of appeal for all civil cases in Scotland, this function will transfer to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. As far as Criminal cases are concerned the High Court of Justiciary (sitting in its appellate function) will remain the highest court of appeal in Scotland.
One of the final judgments to be given in the House of Lords was that the UK Law on assisted suicide is to be clarified. This is long overdue and will mean that the law on assisted suicide will at least comply with the European Convention on Human Rights, even if it turns out that the clarification is not what it is hoped it will be (i.e. that those who travel to Switzerland – or other similar country – with loved ones will not be prosecuted on their return to the United Kingdom).
An interesting and historic day in UK legal terms. It will be good to see the Supreme Court up and running in October.