Monday, 17 January 2011

(1) Courtesy Titles - (2) Lord Kilmuir - (3) "Drugalysers" - (4) Human rights and media comment

Many in the nation are struggling to cope with ever-rising fuel costs; increasing inflation; minimal return on savings; job losses and cuts or axeing of various public services.  "Access to justice" is being made difficult by cuts to legal aid and the closure of many local courts.  Despite all of that, there is anger over courtesy titles for supreme court justices.  When our ultimate court was the House of Lords (Appellate Committee) it was necessary that the Lords of Appeal In Ordinary - (commonly known as Law Lords) - were peers of the realm.  It was argued that a new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom should be created in order to separate the judiciary from the legislature.  Separation of the powers is the Supreme Court's raison d'etre.    Naturally enough, the first Justices of the Supreme Court were the previous "Law Lords."   However, it was not seen as necessary that any new Supreme Court Justices would receive a peerage.  Sir John Dyson was the first such appointment and he was not ennobled.  However, HM The Queen has recently agreed that he could have the courtesy title of "Lord."  Future appointees will be known as "Lord" or "Lady" but will not have peerages.  The wife of such a "Lord" will be known as "Lady" but she would be known as "Lady" anyway if her husband was already a "knight."  However, it seems that the husband of a "Lady" would not become a "Lord."  Civil partners would also be disadvantaged.

The estimable Jack of Kent blog takes a look at the interesting career of Lord Kilmuir (David Maxwell-Fyfe) who was one of the British prosecutors at the Nuremberg trials.  Maxwell-Fyfe's effective and ultimately destructive cross-examination of Hermann Goering is still considered
by many to be a masterclass.  Goering was convicted and sentenced to death but he cheated the hangman by taking cyanide.  After World War 2, Maxwell-Fyfe was instrumental in the drafting of the European Convention on Human Rights and eventually became Lord Chancellor (1954-62) with the title Lord Kilmuir.  He forbade judges speaking out on matters of public interest unless he consented.  Such a stance is unbelievably authoritarian to modern eyes.  Lord MacKay of Clashfern LC considered the rule to be inconsistent with judicial independence and abolished the "Kilmuir Rules" in 1987.  Immediately before becoming Lord Chancellor, Maxwell-Fyfe was Home Secretary.  In that political role he had the power to reprieve those sentenced to death for murder.  His refusal to reprieve Derek Bentley was a factor eventually leading to the abolition of capital punishment.  Bentley and a co-accused Craig were tried before Lord Goddard CJ and a jury for the murder on 2nd November 1952 of Police Constable Miles.  The trial was held on 9th to 11th December 1952.  Although the jury found both guilty they recommended mercy in Bentley's case.  Bentley (aged 19) was hanged on 28th January 1953.

Driving when unfit to do so due to alcohol or drugs is an offence:  Road Traffic Act 1988 s.4.   It is reported that the Police may soon be able to analyse "mouth swabs" using new equipment to detect the presence of many common drugs - see BBC 17th January 2011.   It is claimed that blood tests will no longer be needed in most cases.  See also Road Safety GB.

Barrister Adam Wagner's article in The Guardian seeks to show how inaccurate "human rights reporting" distorts any debate about human rights and their protection - see "Inaccurate human rights reporting will not help either side of the debate."   Adam Wagner is one of the team which prepares the excellent UK Human Rights blog.


  1. Just imagine how lonely poor John Dyson must feel.

  2. @ Law Think - quite ! Actually, I have sympathy for Sir John Dyson and admire him as a lawyer. However, they always intended to abolish automatic peerages for future appointments to the Supreme Court and someone had to be first ! I could not resist the comparison between the "top" of the legal world and those struggling to deliver at the grass roots:

    Manchester Law Centre may close"

    IF only the Mr Djanoglys of the world would wake up and realise that timely advice at Law Centres and Citizen's Advice Bureaux can actually save thousands in legal costs. Avoiding cases getting before courts is surely a laudable aim but these Centres need money to do it BUT they do not need millions. Just enough to keep them afloat will do !

  3. Ed (not Bystander)21 January 2011 at 23:42

    Not millions? How much, then?

  4. Ed (not Bystander) - Law centres are run on shoe string budgets. Lawyers frequently do this work free of charge. Timely advice can save expensive litigation. Makes sense to me.

  5. Ed (not Bystander)22 January 2011 at 17:40

    I'm sorry that I wasn't clear enough with my question.

    How much money? You implied what was required would be less than millions. How much?