Thursday, 27 December 2012

The Lord Chief Justice warns

In a light hearted speech with a serious message, the Lord Chief Justice has warned of the need for vigilance where the rule of law is concerned.

"I am not sounding a clarion call against any imminent threat to the rule of law.  What I am, however, saying is that even in a country with the values with which we are blessed, it is unwise to take them for granted or to assume that we can be sure that in years to come that some new force may not emerge to undermine them; it may be insidious, maybe almost imperceptible. Indeed if insidious and almost imperceptible it is probably more dangerous. So in this context the “may be” is enough.  The future, after all, is long as well as short and the world is changing fast."

Speech at Mansion House, London.

The tragedy is that, in 2012, Parliament enacted the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 which will soon come to remove access to justice for thousands of people who, when in conflict with authority, need an advocate with good understanding of the law and its practical application.

11 comments:

  1. Quite so. The person in the dock is an individual, faced with the full might of the state an its resources. The defence lawyer is his only shield.

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    1. Ed (not Bystander)28 December 2012 18:07

      Unrepresented parties in a case (including criminal ones) should be protected by the judge, who is acting as an organ of the state (the judiciary). It takes longer and is more expensive than paying for a lawyer for a criminal defendant, but should not fundamentally alter the balance of things.

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    2. In civil litigation there's a line which must not be crossed between helping the unrepresented party and being unfair to the represented party. Leeway to the former must not be at the expense of making the latter run up more costs.

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    3. Ed (not Bystander)28 December 2012 20:58

      In other news, the sun rises in the east.

      The overriding objective, legally binding on all parties and on the court, in both criminal and civil proceedings is "to deal with cases justly".

      Any questions?

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    4. Not true to say that the defence lawyer is the ONLY shield - there is also the trial judge. However, a competent defence lawyer is the best shield which can be available. Let's not forget that, basically, legal aid is more readily available in criminal cases than in civil though the defendant may have to pay a contribution. (The actual rules are complex).

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  2. There is no law only the rich versus the poor, welcome to 2013.

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  3. And a personage called the "Minister for Equalities" writes to magazines urging their editors not to publish certain diets. When the Minister for anything asks editors not to publish anything and gets away with it that is a direct threat to the rule of law; if publication of this material (worthless rubbish as it doubtless is) is unlawful then let it be restrained by operation of law and if it is not it is not for Ministers to interfere in.

    That which is forbidden must be prevented or punished; that which is compulsory enforced; thart which is neither is not Ministers' business.

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    1. Ed (not Bystander)28 December 2012 21:00

      The minister asked. The minister did not make any claim as to what the law had to say on the matter. Calling that "a direct threat to the rule of law" is a bit hysterical, no?

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    2. I am not aware of the exact request. However, it looks like just a request unless, of course, it is backed up by some form of sanction for non-compliance. Rightly or wrongly, Ministers seek to influence our lives in so many ways. Securing the enactment of new law is just one way. I tend to think that we are vastly over-regulated but there we are!

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  4. No, Ed-not-Bystander, I am not being hysterical. When a Minister requests there is an implied threat to use sanctions and if necessary to ask Parliament to create them. Ministers should take a hands-off approach to anything which lies outside their existing powers - unless, of course, they say that they will be asking for new powers, in which case they should do so openly and in terms.

    If people don't want to buy these magazines, they won't. If they do, they will.

    Imagine if the Ministers of the day twenty years ago had asked the publishers to withdraw the Satanic Verses! But of course a magazine aimed at women, especially young women, publishing diets which the readers will keep them skinny will not attract the support of the chattering classes as a serious novel did, will it?

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    1. Ed (not Bystander)31 December 2012 23:52

      I say "potato", you say "THIS IS A CRISIS AND THREAT TO THE RULE OF LAW". I assume that if Parliament did go ahead and create legal sanctions that were then applied, this would also be a threat to the rule of law?

      Good to see you are fully in favour of the free market deciding. I assume you are also against regulation of food quality, medical personnel and/or procedures, and recreational substances?

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