Sunday, 15 November 2015
Nationalism and the Law
I attended an interesting Memorial lecture hosted by the famous Barrister’s Chambers, Farrar’s Buildings, aka “The Welsh Castle in the Temple”, for one of their most distinguished former members, Lord Gareth Williams of Mostyn, a leading Labour Lawyer, details of whose career can be found here>>>Gareth Williams, Baron Williams of Mostyn - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The guest speaker was the current Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, another distinguished Welsh Lawyer, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd.
In the impressive surroundings of the hall in Gray’s Inn, Lord Thomas gave a good speech, the gist of which was arguing for reform of the procedures of the judicial system and, in particular, the use of more IT, but there was no detail.
There was also a bit of an indication of the problem that distinguished barristers often have i.e. very little understanding of how organisations work.
He seemed to be saying that the reforms have got to be implemented and would be ‘top down’ directed but those affected would be required to willingly support the reforms, something of a contradiction in terms!
The Lord Chief Justice also talked energetically about the importance of the justice system as a public good in our democracy, but he did also seem to be a bit confused as to how important the judiciary itself was in that system. I think a useful reminder might have been that Judges very often have been involved in trying to impose wrong or unjust law and it has very often been English juries or English lawyers who have thwarted the imposition of such law in England and not the often careerist judiciary. Leaving those cavils to one side it was a good speech and a good evening.
After the speech was over we were served nice wine and canapes and had the opportunity to talk with some of those present which included many of the most Senior Lawyers and Judges in the country, being not only the Lord Chief Justice, but many High Court Judges and at least one Supreme Court Judge.
I won’t name any names, but from the point of view of the Cause, it was clear that our Judges are very aware of the changing national nature of “the country” or “the nation”.
I not only spoke to one High Court Judge, who is a full supporter of Welsh Independence and the separation of the Welsh legal system from the English one (I should remind readers that there are currently three separate legal jurisdictions in the so-called United Kingdom, that of England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. All three have different laws, different procedures, different systems in judicial appointment etc.). This High Court Judge was of the view that we should have a fourth jurisdiction with England and Wales being separated.
I also had a High Court Judge expressly agree with me that, if Scotland had voted to become independent and the Act of Union of 1707 therefore had to be repealed, it would have caused the dissolution, not only of the Union that was created by the Act of Union of the “United Kingdom of Great Britain”, but because Great Britain was the building block for the Union with Ireland that that Union and the Union with the EU would also have been dissolved automatically.
The only Union that England has that would not be dissolved by Scottish Independence is the 1536 Union with Wales.
From my point of view it was interesting to see that there is lively awareness amongst the judiciary of the constitutional consequences of the way things are going within the United Kingdom on the diminishing sense of Britishness and the rising sense of Englishness, Welshness and Scottishness.