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  • Writer's pictureRobert Spicer

LAW Part 3: the criticism continues

In the interests of fairness and balance, what is good, in summary, about the English legal system?

  • The independence of the judiciary.

  • The incorruptibility of the judiciary in the sense of financial bribery. The English judiciary, unlike the legislature, has never been the subject of financial scandal.

  • The jury system, as the only democratic element in the system, which is constantly under attack.

  • The Human Rights Act 1998.

  • A general adherence to the rule of law.

  • A highly developed and sophisticated system of legal education.

  • The permitted scope for individualism in the legal profession, which results in a small number of highly committed progressive lawyers.

  • Law Centres.

  • The Legal Action Group and its publications.

  • The remnants of legal aid.

  • Health and safety law and some aspects of employment law.

  • The common law dealing with workplace stress.

  • Some other areas of substantive law, for example road traffic, food hygiene, environmental law and common law negligence. These areas are not generally concerned with commerce, property or money.

  • Progressive organisations, for example Liberty, the Haldane Society, Reprieve, Amnesty International and the Legal Action Group.

  • Resistance by the judiciary to the increasing power of the executive.

  • The intellectual achievements of the senior judiciary.

Before 2003 it seemed to be clear that the most important issue facing English law was the denial of justice to the poor. But the Iraq War has emerged as more significant than the buying and selling of justice, for the following reasons:

  • The application of English law has been seen to be partly responsible for a wholly avoidable humanitarian disaster.

  • Senior members of the former British government are regularly accused, in the press, of war crimes.

  • Any claims which the British government might have had to moral ascendancy have been swept aside. The moral high ground has been lost, and English law is implicated in this debacle.

  • English lawyers have not, in general, spoken out or acted against the first major illegal international act of the twenty-first century. Individual lawyers and judges have protested but professional associations have, to their shame, been largely silent.

The Iraq War is fully examined in Chapter 5.

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