Enjoy the Festive Season - think of those less fortunate and, if you can, help them. In the restless world of the law, there will be much more to write about in the coming days and months. This blog will continue to follow at least some of the many stories and 2015 promises to be a most interesting year given the forthcoming general election which may bring about some new directions in government legal policy. Here, I touch on four areas: Access to Justice; the European Convention on Human Rights; Devolution; and the EU.
Legal aid has either been removed from numerous areas of law or made more difficult to obtain. Judicial Review - (a vital legal mechanism for keeping officialdom subject to the law) - has come under attack. The extent to which political parties will stop or reverse this trend should be a key election issue. After all, the rule of law and access to justice for the citizen are vital elements in a democratic society. The courts and tribunals of the land must not be allowed to become the tax-payer funded playground of super rich litigious individuals or huge corporate business. As the 800th year of Magna Carta approaches, the time is right to say that the attacks on justice must not only stop but must be reversed.
There are threats to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights. The Convention system has more than proved its worth in enhancing the rights of individuals against the State. From time-to-time it requires government to take action to uphold convention rights but it is a falsehood to claim that government never wins cases. Usually, the key issue is what should be the proper balance between the individual and the State. Most of the rights in the Convention permit such a balance to be sought. The extent to which the convention system restricts government ought to be generally welcomed. Withdrawal from the Convention would be certain to do the UK untold harm internationally and ought logically to lead to the UK losing its place in the Council of Europe and the EU. Surely, such things are unthinkable for a nation such as the UK which has always been outgoing in its desire for commerce with other nations.
A further massive issue is what form will the United Kingdom take in the future. Devolution of power to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - but not to England - has resulted in a highly asymmetric nation. The logical outcome of devolution must be that the United Kingdom becomes a truly FEDERAL nation but there seems to be political unwillingness to accept this.
Yet another major issue is that of the European Union. Certain of the fundamental principles of the EU are causing serious social and political concern and, in particular, freedom of movement of workers is blamed for continuing immigration which is placing enormous pressure on all forms of public service. It would be unwise to ignore such issues.
So there we are. Four important issues and there will be many others. For now, let's enjoy Christmas with its vital message of Peace on Earth.