Human Rights Rule the Common Law

I have spent much of my life in courts and seen how the law works in criminal and (mostly) civil cases. I have watched judges make good decisions and bad decisions, and served on a jury which impressed me with the desire of every member to come to the right decision, taking great care and trouble and using all of our ordinary skills and experience of life. The law is an odd taskmaster.

Sometimes you find that a case is not dealt with fairly but conveniently. It is sad how the law now worries less about convicting the innocent than it does about processing cases in a cost effective way. Taxpayers may celebrate this, until, of course, they are litigants or falsely accused of crime. It took the law of England a thousand years to build principles of justice – and although sometimes those principles were more honoured in the breach than in the observance, they were on the whole upheld, sooner or later.

Trial by jury, the presumption of innocence, the standard of reasonable doubt, habeus corpus, the right to legal representation, the right to a fair and open trial, the right to understand the case against you – why you could reel off these principles which protected citizens far more safely than any convention on human rights. Today all of these great principles of the common law are being eroded because of political  advantage and legislature convenience. It is as though the existence of human rights makes legislatures feel that they can write what laws they want because human rights will sweep up any injustice; but that does not happen; human rights are weak on the right to a fair trial.

Thus the common law rights  developed over a thousand years of trial and error, in face of autocratic monarchs and religious bigotry are now ruled by “human rights” and we are much more likely to suffer injustice as a result.


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