System under threat
9 Jul 18
Items in this month's issue illustrate increasing threats to the rule of law and the integrity of the legal system
This column speaks out from time to time in support of the rule of law and the integrity of the legal system. Without wishing to sound repetitive, a number of items in this month’s issue raise these related, and vital, themes.
While complacent politicians are a frequent target for criticism – as below – it could be said that sometimes the profession does not do its own cause any good. Witness our online article “Missives: time to add a penalty”. It tells of an elderly client who had a stroke due to the stress induced by two failed attempts to sell her house as missives had not concluded. Whether the author’s proposed solution is the right one can be debated, but he is not alone in calling for urgent action to preserve the reputation of the profession and restore the integrity of our housebuying system.
The actions of lending institutions also impact on transactions. Whatever commercial pressures they claim to face, there is surely no excuse if a lender completely fails to deliver a discharge following repayment of a loan. Yet a correspondent on the letters page has twice experienced just that, leaving both him and his fellow agent in breach of various obligations. He believes a remedy may lie in an addition to the standard clauses. Good luck to him in pursuing that, but it should not be necessary.
Much more serious issues threaten the criminal justice system in England & Wales, and have been illustrated, starkly but without exaggeration, in the book known only by the author’s mask of The Secret Barrister. “The impact of devastating cuts is on display daily,” it states, and our reviewer this month (see the online version for a fuller picture) has certainly sat up and taken notice. “The heat engendered as it excoriates the current state of the English justice system is awesome,” he writes. “While our Scottish system is different, many of the outrages set out in this book will be happening on our doorsteps too.”
The book has been distributed to MPs and we can only hope that enough of them start to take notice. Given the apparent, and recently illustrated, influence of Government whips when it comes to a vote, that may not be enough.
At least we have not yet reached the situation in Poland, where the Chief Justice is, as I write, resisting attempts by the President to force her retirement under new powers condemned by the EU as a threat to the legal order. But the threats in this country, though more insidious, are just as real. All lawyers should be proactive against them, including by ensuring our own house is in order.