• Robert Spicer

The mystery of the law: statutes and cases: how to demystify?

Demystification methods

Statutes and Regulations

Many of these can be simplified by breaking them down into their essential elements, with bullet points and explanations of key words and phrases. Some statutory material, however, is totally incomprehensible and impossible to explain, even for the most highly qualified and experienced specialists. The only way forward for these rules is abolition and replacement with clearly-drafted material.

Case law

Most case law can be summarised so that non-lawyers can relatively easily understand the facts and the decision. But arcane analyses of, for example, tax law, are virtually impossible for anyone to understand and might best be consigned to history along with the thousands of dusty volumes which line library shelves, which are only ever looked at by students researching the history of particularly obscure legal concepts and which contain endless, opaque pages upon pages of incomprehensible judicial deliberation.

In legal proceedings, the classes speak different languages. Even the most basic legal concepts can be misunderstood by those victims of the system unfortunate enough to have missed out on a legal education. For example, the following conversation was recently overheard in an inner-city magistrates’ court:

Justices’ clerk – Do you plead guilty or not guilty?

Accused – I never done it.

Justices’ clerk – Is that guilty or not guilty?

Accused – I never done it.

Justices’ clerk – Is that guilty or not guilty?

Accused – Guilty.

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