In R (Black) v Secretary of State for Justice, the Supreme Court was required to consider when Acts of Parliament are binding on the Crown. It found that the existing law was inconsistent and unsatisfactory. It then made things worse.
The UK Supreme Court’s year in 2017 was framed by two constitutional cases rooted in the medieval history of the British monarchy.
At the beginning of the year, in R (Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, the court was concerned with what remains, in the early Twenty-First Century, of the scope of the royal prerogative. And at the year’s end, in R (Black) v Secretary of State for Justice, it had to consider the circumstances in which a contemporary Act of Parliament is binding on the Crown.
The first of these cases, which was related to the legal mechanism for delivering Brexit, achieved wide publicity. The second did not. But the judgment in Black is revealing as to the state of the UK constitution as it enters 2018, and of practical application in a wide range of cases. It tells us something about why the Crown still matters in UK law.