Six members of the Israeli Supreme Court flew home this morning after spending a week in London as guests of their British counterparts.
The United Kingdom team was led by Lady Hale, a Justice of the Supreme Court, and the Israeli team by Dorit Beinisch, President of the Supreme Court of Israel.
Lady Hale was particularly interested to hear that the Israeli courts had decided some time ago that privately-operated prisons were unlawful in Israel. Private prisons are regarded as lawful in Britain, provided the state has ultimate control.
This was the seventh triennial British-Israeli Legal Exchange and is part of a series of exchanges between United Kingdom judges and lawyers and those from other countries. Others have involved the United States, India, Canada, France and Germany. The previous British-Israeli Exchange took place in 2007 in Jerusalem.
The meeting ended with a reception at the House of Lords last night given by Lord Pannick QC and Lady Pannick, which was attended by the Israeli ambassador, Ron Prosor.
In a lighthearted farewell, Lord Pannick noted that with six Israeli judges in the room there would be at least seven opinions. He joked that the Israelis were rushing home in order to watch the football World Cup and compared Lady Hale, who led the British delegation, to Wayne Rooney and Fabio Capello.
Lady Hale said:
We learn so much from these exchanges. Legal systems the world over face very similar challenges but in the common law world, which includes both the United Kingdom and Israel, we share common legal values which shape our solutions to these challenges. We have greatly enjoyed hosting the British-Israeli Legal Exchange in the Supreme Court, where we have discussed some difficult legal issues in a friendly, frank and constructive atmosphere.
In reply, President Beinisch said:
On behalf of the Israeli delegation to the British-Israeli Legal Exchange we are heartedly grateful to our hosts for extremely fruitful and stimulating discussions and for the warm and friendly hospitality extended to us.
In welcoming the Israeli delegation on 7 June, Lord Phillips, president of the UK Supreme Court, said:
We have much in common with your court. We apply a law that has its basis the common law and we have no written constitution, although we have laws that have constitutional impact. In recent times the activities of those who are hostile to our regimes have posed particular problems to courts dedicated, as both our courts are, to upholding the rule of law.
Two other Supreme Court judges joined the discussions, Lord Collins and Sir John Dyson. In addition to Lord Pannick, the other members of the British delegation were:
Sir Declan Morgan, Lord Chief Justice Northern Ireland
Lady Paton, Court of Session, Scotland
Professor David Feldman QC
Professor Jeffrey Jowell QC
Dinah Rose QC
Shami Chakrabarti CBE, director of Liberty, and
Lisa Giovannetti, barrister.
Reporters were not allowed to attend the working sessions.
The Israeli delegation included:
President Dorit Beinisch
Justice Edna Arbel
Justice Elyakim Rubinstein
Justice Esther Hayut
Justice Hanan Melcer
Justice Uzi Vogelman
Professor Barak Medina
Professor Daphne Barak-Erez