Lord of Injustice Jackson?
Petty bureaucracy trumps Justice in the Royal Courts
As a solicitor practicing in Civil Litigation and as a member (also past President) of my local Law Society, I attended an interesting talk on Thursday given by Matthew Harman, a Partner in the Costs Lawyers, Harmans Costs, Ardenham Lane House, Ardenham Lane, Aylesbury, Bucks HP19 8AA, who seemed very able and switched on talking about the effect of the latest fad of “Reforms” in Civil Litigation. These are known as the “Jackson Reforms”, after Lord Justice Jackson.
Lord Justice Jackson seems to be the very model of the sort of Judge that Derry Irvine and the Labour Party were keen to appoint during their years in office. That is to say he is very Statist in his philosophy about Law, he is very bureaucratically minded and evidently he is not very interested in Justice. That is with the meaning that “Justice” would mean to any right- thinking ordinary Englishman, whether he be (in the traditional phrase) on the back of the “Clapham Omnibus” or not!
Jackson also appears to have the very dogmatic adherence to the details of rules of a petty town hall bureaucrat. Indeed under the Jackson Reforms “Justice” has been redefined to be fundamentally about the administrative convenience of the Court and the State!
As part of this Statist mentality, the Courts are now supposed to “manage” cases. This is of course quite an odd concept, bearing in mind that most judges are former barristers and have therefore absolutely no experience of managing how litigation runs, let alone understanding the underlying economic realities or even for that matter of running or organising a normal business! Yet these same people are now expected to “manage” access to perhaps the most important function that a State has (with the exception of defence), I mean the Administration of Justice!
You may well have heard of one of the products of Lord Justice Jackson’s staggering lack of common-sense in the case of the wronged MP, Mr Andrew Mitchell of so-called plebgate fame, in which the police appear to have lied about what he said. In the Mitchell litigation the courts in their un-wisdom have now ruled that no costs can be recovered from the newspaper which libelled him!
Even worse in recent cases the courts are now saying that if you are even slightly late in putting in your witness statements then you are not allowed to have your witnesses give evidence at the trial!
Tacky looking EU style zip up gowns!
I am normally not one to rush to the European Convention of Human Rights, but with such respect as I can muster for the Lord Justices now wearing their tacky looking EU style zip up gowns and no wigs (therefore no longer looking like traditional English Judges that you could respect), this is a blatant and obvious breach of one of the European Convention’s cornerstone rights, the right to a FAIR TRIAL in which the parties have “equality of arms”.
In my time as a lawyer this is the third time that there has been a mad-cap attempt at a top down reform of the Civil Justice system. In each case it has been motived by Europhile enthusiasm, in particular for the German model of Civil Justice. On each occasion the “reformers” have missed the key feature of the German system which makes that system bearable to the people under it, which is that it is the DUTY of the Court to make the right decision and not of lawyers to do anything other than to assist the Court in making the right decision.
In England the opposite is the case and it is the solicitors’ and barristers’ job to present their client’s case as effectively as they can and the Judge merely in effect arbitrates between the cases that are put before them.
For such a Judge to take on supposedly managing cases with no experience in practical life of doing so, is not only simply absurd, but it inevitably leads to widespread miscarriages of justice.
As a lawyer I feel ashamed that the supposed leaders of our profession should have lent their names to these “reforms”. As a politician, it is yet another example of the contemptible incompetence of our political class that this travesty has been imposed by the laughably mis-named “Ministry of Justice”.
If there was real justice then the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand, which is such a splendid embodiment of the Victorian respect for the greatness of English law and justice, should be renamed the Royal Courts of Bureaucratic Nit-picking – that is for as long as the Queen will want her Title associated with such a betrayal of our traditions!
But then, of course, for those interested in legal history, we should not be surprised that justice is not safe in the hands of careerist Judges.
In England the reason why justice and common-sense was preserved within our Court system over the centuries was because Juries decided almost all cases of fact and, if the law was likely to work an injustice, very often made their findings in such a way as to ensure that a just result was obtained.
Of course English juries were until the late 1960’s rate payers only, so bring back jury trials for more complicated cases we might need a process whereby a decision was made as to the appropriate level of qualification required of jurors that was related to the complexity of the case.