The constitutional influence of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council on the UK apex court: institutional proximity and jurisprudential divergence?
Keywords:Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, Supreme Court, constitutional law, constitutional borrowing, constitutional interpretation, proportionality
It is often claimed that the constitutional role of the UK’s apex court is enriched as a result of the experiences of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as interpreter of constitutions within its overseas jurisdiction. This paper considers the relationship between the House of Lords/UK Supreme Court and the Judicial Committee and its effect on the importation of external influences into the UK’s legal system(s), further seeking to assess how far the jurisprudence of the Judicial Committee has influenced constitutional decision-making in the UK apex court. While ad hoc citation of Privy Council authorities in House of Lords/Supreme Court decisions is relatively commonplace, a post-1998 enthusiasm for reliance on Judicial Committee authority – relating to (i) a ‘generous and purposive’ approach to constitutional interpretation and (ii) supporting the developing domestic test for proportionality – quickly faded. Both areas are illustrative of a diminishing reliance on Judicial Committee authority, but reveal divergent approaches to constitutional borrowing as the UK apex court has incrementally mapped the contours of an autochthonous constitutionalism while simultaneously recognising the trans-jurisdictional qualities of the proportionality test.