The BBC ran a three part series, “The Strange Case Of The Law”, on how the Law of England developed since the age of the Anglo Saxons and how so many of its features were exported to the wider world. Harry Potter was the presenter, this one being a barrister engaged in Criminal Law.
It is a long and complicated history but the series did manage to distil the essence of it. On the whole it used to be regarded as a “good thing” which made trials fairer, the law better and its management understood by both the experts involved and in general by the great majority of the population.
But in the final few minutes of the series came the bad news. One of the most senior and able judges more or less said that with recent legislation our noble and learned judiciary have difficulty in understanding it and even more trouble trying to apply it to the cases that come before the courts.
There are three key problems. One now is the sheer length and extent of new Acts of Parliament. Another is the complexity of the many sections, schedules and clauses etc.
The third is that the structure and language use do not clearly set out what the law is. They are often descriptive and allusive and assume that philosophical ideas can somehow become enforceable and explainable law.
So if our Parliament no longer enacts workable laws, which it is paid to do and that it why it is there, why is that happening and what are the effects? Major reasons why it is happening is that an out of control Civil Service is churning the stuff out wholesale rather than retail.
Another is the tidal wave of regulation and directives from
, very long on words and very short
on clarity. Brussels
In a way I was glad to see an eminent judge admitting that when faced an Act consisting of hundreds of pages, thousands of parts and an untold number of words he is often defeated by the struggle. If he cannot cope then nor can I nor almost all of the population that is educated or managing things or both.
In other words the legislative diarrhoea that we have had now for most of the last two decades may well have begun to destroy the real basis of the legal system and worse any confidence that the electorate may have in it or its practitioners. As well as that those that run things then those who are the doers are all at a loss.
Without confidence in the law itself, little in the government, less in Parliament and almost zero in all the other agencies engaged in governing then the loss will become all pervasive. When we then also lose confidence in our financial system and our public utilities then we lose any vision of community or nationality.
It is then that the unscrupulous power brokers and political and financial confidence tricksters take over. If they take over our media as well then it is certainly goodbye to any coherent and effective body of law.
If history is any guide it tells us that our political systems cannot last and it is goodbye to any real form of democracy as well.