• Robert Spicer

LAW: a critical analysis of the English legal system Part 1: Introduction

He saw a lawyer killing a viper

On a dunghill hard by his own stable;

and the Devil smiled, for it put him in mind

of Cain and his brother, Abel

(Coleridge, The Devil’s Thoughts)

This book is written for non-lawyers and lawyers. It has the following aims:

  • In general, to communicate a highly critical analysis of the current state of English law and lawyers.

  • To continue to emphasise the overwhelming importance of the illegality of the Iraq war.

  • To expose, explain and illustrate the central role of money in the English legal system.

  • To argue, on behalf of non-lawyers, for the simplification, demystification and clarification of English legal rules.

  • To examine the growing involvement of charity in the English legal system.

  • To analyse English law and lawyers from the perspective of class justice.

  • To restate and to publicise neglected voices of dissent on law and lawyers.

  • To discuss the concept of human rights.

  • To illustrate, with recent examples, the significance of health and safety law in the English legal system.

  • To put forward realistic suggestions for alternative legal practice.

  • To discuss the meaning and significance of dissent in the context of legal practice.

  • To challenge existing preconceptions and accepted wisdom about the role of English law and lawyers.

  • To discuss the effect, in a historical context, of revolutionary changes in society on law and lawyers.

  • To raise public awareness and stimulate discussion of the key current issues in English law.

Chapter 1 looks at Money. It puts forward the argument that money is the key which unlocks the meaning of English law. It discusses the relationship between poverty and the enforcement of legal rights. No win no fee arrangements and legal aid are critically analysed. The Chapter also considers lawyers’ earnings, law as business and the scandal of miners’ compensation. It also examines the cost of becoming a lawyer and discusses the dubious history of Claims Direct.

Chapter 2 concerns Class. It defines and discusses the concept of class justice. The Chapter discusses the Crimewatch television programme as an exemplar of the spectacle of class justice and goes on to provide examples of class justice in practice. These examples include alcohol prohibition in the United States and the English system of Crown immunity. The current role of the English judiciary is considered. The Chapter also looks at examples of revolutionary legal systems including the Paris Commune and Cuba.

Chapter 3 deals with Dissent. It sets out rarely-published views of law. These include statements on the legal system from voices including the Levellers, William Godwin, American radical lawyers, Jessica Mitford, Nelson Mandela, Albie Sachs, E.P. Thompson, Tolstoy, Kropotkin, Emma Goldman and the French Illegalists. The importance of the McLibel case is also considered. Material from the Haldane Society and the Up Against the Law collective is included.

Chapter 4 looks at Rights. It deals with the relationship between individual and collective human rights, examines the torture “debate” and sets out material dealing with human rights in Cuba and in the post-apartheid Constitution of South Africa.

Chapter 5 deals with war, specifically the Iraq War. It argues that the legality of the Iraq War is the most important issue which currently faces English lawyers. It examines the legal issues arising from the War and considers English case law connected with the War. The Chapter analyses the effect of the Iraq War on the relationship between law and morality. It discusses the Nuremburg principles and examines the death penalty as illustrated by the “squalid lynching” of Saddam Hussein. It concludes with a critical comparative analysis of health and safety in a war context.

Chapter 6 – Mystery – attempts to unravel the mysteries of English law. It sets out a list of words and phrases in common use by lawyers which form a sort of secret code. The Chapter considers the reasons for obscure legal language, discusses legal Latin and sets out examples of clarity in the law. Examples of extreme mystery are also considered. Aspects of employment law are analysed in detail as illustrations of unnecessary mystification. Recent examples of judicial comments on demystification are set out.

Chapter 7 discusses current legal practice. It considers the advocacy monopoly and suggests methods of alternative practice. The Chapter examines the apparent contradictions between the public perception of lawyers and the image which the profession aims to project. The Queen’s Counsel system is analysed. Barristers’ public access rules are examined. The Chapter continues with a consideration of the nature of advocacy, the position of unrepresented litigants and the process by which lawyers qualify.

The book concludes with a list of further reading, a glossary of technical words and phrases, a list of cases and a detailed index.

Footnotes are deliberately excluded from the material. The main reason for this is that the author has struggled through too many books with more footnotes than text to be able to follow the thread of the material, and aims to avoid these diversionary fragmentations. Full case references, further reading and a detailed index are provided for those readers who may wish to follow up references in the text.

The material is subdivided throughout into a number of levels of headings and frequent use is made of bullet points. The aim of these devices is to make the text more accessible to the reader than conventional legal textbooks.

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