I just came across ‘Trevor‘, a blog written by a Magistrate. Reading through some of the entries, you could accuse him of being a human being which, considering my view on the Judiciary as a whole, means that I may have to vary my opinions in future. I found this blog through the UK Human Rights blog entry about the banning of blogging in any judicial capacity.
I want to explore a couple of comments from the HR blog because I feel that they are important issues; the first written by an anonymous writer on the Near Legal housing law blog argues that the ban is “short-sighted” and likely to have a “damaging effect on public understanding of the legal system and transparency“.
In my experience, the public have very little understanding of the legal system and the profession as a whole do their utmost to ensure that the public never does. Like the Cistercian monks, they maintain domination over the law by clinging to Latin, an obscure language that, while at the root of English, does little to foster understanding in this modern age.
There may be value in this medieval language but when a member of the public is presented with terminology such as a mensa et thoro or absque hoc they do not immediately know what it might mean and most importantly, they will never know the nuances inherent in its use within the legal profession. The result is that they have to call in a professional, a solicitor and/or a barrister who will interpret the obscure meanings. The public are not part of the club, they will not have lunch with their opposition, discuss a deal over drinks or on the tennis court.
With the removal of most legal aid, the public are even more at the mercy of the legal system and the courts. Any forum that fosters understanding must be encouraged in order to redress the imbalance which has formed as a result of changes to legal aid and the ability to have a fair trial only if you are able to pay for it.
Another comment comes from the guidance issued to members of the judiciary which reads;
“They must also avoid expressing opinions which, were it to become known that they hold judicial office, could damage public confidence in their own impartiality or in the judiciary in general”.
The democratic process and purported transparency in public office demands that the truth always be made known. If a judge finds himself at odds with the laws as passed by Parliament, they must interpret them to the best of their ability but it is this self-interpretation that leads to such a bollixed system and gives an out to a judge who might make a decision that reeks of injustice – it’s simply not good enough.
I’m not saying that being a judge is an easy role but when anyone in public office decides to use their position inappropriately as in the Guardian’s ‘Who is judging the judges?‘, all decisions of that judge should immediately come under scrutiny to ensure that there was no bias, corruption or other hidden agenda or just plain incompetence.