Nobody Knows

The Brexit nonsense drags on. There is now an argument in which some claim that the government should disclose the detailed legal advice it has received about the legal effect of the proposed future basis of the UK’s relationship with the UK. The demands for such disclosure are being made most strongly by politicians who implacably oppose the “deal” so there seems little point in disclosing the advice.

Nevertheless, we must bear in mind another point. The whole of law is founded on the principle that nobody knows; Continue reading

The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers

When Jack Cade in Shakespeare’s Henry VI part 2 is offering his credentials as a King  to urge a rebellion against the King the policies Cade offers are very modest. Seven halfpenny loaves of bread will only cost a penny under his regime a three hooped pot (used for measuring how much each drinker should drink out of a common vessel) shall have ten hoops; it will be a felony to drink small beer, money will be abolished (so buying bread for a halfpenny would not be possible) and everyone will dress in one livery. Dick the Butcher one of Cade’s violent henchmen) offers that the first thing to be done is to kill all the lawyers, and Cade responds that he means to do that.

Cade never achieved power and every politician, whether democratically elected or whether a tyrant or autocrat has never killed all the lawyers but used them in exactly the same way that all people use lawyers – to further their own ends be it for good or for bad.

 

Civil Litigation

We need justice and people need to think that the legal system provides justice, more or less.

Last year at was assisting in a trial in Nuremberg in Germany. It was a strange experience for a lawyer you has for the past forty five years been practicing in a common law jurisdiction. Continue reading

Honesty and Integrity

When I applied for admission to the roll of solicitors in 1974 it was a requirement that applicants be interviewed by a panel of the Law Society. At my interview I was asked what the two most important qualities were of a solicitor. I replied that I thought honesty and integrity were the most important qualities. The panel asked me what was the difference between honesty and integrity. Continue reading

The Trends of 2015

It is almost shirtsleeve weather in London. The quiet interregnum between Christmas and New Year is usually a time of cold dark days, but this year has been warm and bright in London.

Soon the media will start their reviews of 2015, and tell us who did what, who succeeded, who failed and who died. These reviews seem to avoid the trends which are becoming more prevalent. Most of these trends move in undesirable directions. Here are some examples:

  1. The trend of police everywhere to be more ready to use weapons and more ready to use violence in circumstances that do not require it.
  2. The trend of governments everywhere to be more authoritarian and less liberal.
  3. The trend of joining wars because “something must be done” without bothering to think whether doing something as opposed to doing nothing will make things worse.
  4. The trend of lawmakers to enact new laws, bad laws detailed laws which wrongly regulate the lives of people.
  5. The trend of cowardice, which in all kinds of ways, is displacing courage.
  6. The trend of promoting law, at the expense of justice.

No Justice

If you are a poor person or a moderately wealthy person and find yourself charged with a criminal offence and you are innocent, the consequences of proving your innocence (for that is what you have to do in practice despite learned legal theory to the contrary) can be ruinous. In order to get a defence you will have to lay out your savings, sometimes even sell your home, to pay the lawyers to defend you. You cannot into today’s complicated legal world, defend yourself competently, even if you are used to dealing in legal matters without an expensive legal team. The Government refused to lay out taxpayers’s money on these defence costs. The Government has decided that this is just, and such a person that I have described, on being found not guilty by the courts, would be lucky, under a present system, to recover a small fraction of what that person has laid out to in defence costs. Being found not guilty means ruin, not prison. Continue reading

Justice and the Rule of Law

Justice, as the Greeks knew, is very close to morality and righteousness. It is the glue that holds the individual in society, for without justice the individual has no business being in society. The rule of law is the concept that everyone, particularly governments and their officials, are not above the law, but are subject to the laws they make and that those laws provide certainty and enable people to live reasonably in society. Continue reading