Tag Archives: Justice

Courtroom advocacy in decline?

13 Nov

Previously, solicitors could only represent their clients in a magistrates court, whereas a barrister would represent the client in higher courts.  Now, solicitors can apply for different advocacy/representation rights and represent their own clients, and collect both fees. Barristers can now also apply for “direct access” to clients, but this is rare and relevant in only certain sectors.

I doubt the role of barristers is being challenged, however many claim that the junior bar is being deprived of work and ultimately the quality of advocacy will decrease as work is not passed on to those specifically trained and experienced in the profession.

The most significant question however is whether the blurring of the different roles has contributed to miscarriages of justice.  The Bar would argue it has. The Law Society itself has agreed their advocacy training is “not fit for purpose”. Apparent lack of familiarity with rules and courtroom procedure or advocacy generally may give an unfair advantage to the prosecution (or the defence if we’re talking about in-house CPS advocates).

With cuts in legal aid contributing to the decline of the “legal aid equality myth”, the justice system really doesn’t need any more obstacles.

Get rid of the “middlemen” (we can apply that to either profession actually) and reduce costs or encourage each to stick to their traditionally defined roles to ensure the quality of advocacy and therefore justice is preserved?

The Legal System hmmmm….

17 Jun

So after spending a week at the Old Bailey (not as a defendant don’t worry) some general thoughts have arisen regarding the nature of our legal system. Things that annoy me about it mostly. Even though I might point these out, I’m not actually smart enough to offer any solutions or alternatives.

Speed: Well it’s rather slow isn’t it….. A particular case I was following was dealing with an “event” that occured in 2007. It is now 2012. That is quite a long time… Although out of all the cases I saw that week that was an exception, none of the cases had reached trail less than a year after whatever had occured. I’ve got to say that is seems the only reason this is happening is because of resources, or a lack of them. Preparation would take a few weeks maximum if there were enough courts, barristers and time.

Jury: As rude as this may seem, allowing any Tom, Dick or Harry to decide ultimately someone’s future based on a complex presentation of a case seems odd. However, having said that, it is the job of the prosecution and defence to present their argument in a way that is clear and understandable. My main issue really is that cases more often than not (especially for the more serious or copmlex) run into well over 2 weeks. In this case, the jury is only really representative of the people who can afford to take months at a time out of their life and cannot manage to ABSV themselve of their jury duty. Instinctively I would prefer our fate to be decided by a legal expert (the judge) who will consider the arguments (as he is supposed to act neutrally anyway) and come to a conclusion, since the decision is probably needed because of a breach of the law. But then all the other arguments obvious arguments come in. Misquoting Churchill when he spoke about democracy, something along the lines of…”It’s the worst system, except all others that have been tried”, which I think fits rather well to trial by Jury. Juries are already being removed for complex fraud cases, will this expand into other cases or is that just a horrible slippery slope fallacy? In some cases, despite clear instructions from the judge, the jury have ignored what has been said and either convicted or accquited, giving ordinary people a say as to the actual law…. a little worrying no?

Legal Aid: This is a good thing. Why are we (well the tories anyway) cutting it down? Isn’t equal access to justice quite an importnat principle in our society? I know Michael Mansfield agrees with me anyway! The fact that Barristers were recently thinking of striking should send out a strong messgae. £350m out of the MOJs legal aid budget – really? Couldn’t you just cancel the stupid olympic posters floating around every street corner annoying my eyes instead. Health, Education and the Legal System – the 3 main things I think a government shouldn’t mess with. Please.

Access: To the profession I mean. It is getting more and more competitive every year, which isn’t such a horrific thing in itself. The horrific thing is that by the time I finish my legal education I will be almost £50,000 in debt. Loans and all that jazz do exist, true, however you can’t argue that the figure may be slightly off putting to those who aren’t from bakgrounds used to those sums. And although there is an “equal opportunities” obsession going on at the moment, 2/3 of the bar are privately educated. 93% of the population are not. I’m sure (I hope) this will improve over time though.

I’m sure I have many other things to complain about – especially in relation to law – but my head is aching for my pillow so I think I’ll let you wait till next time!


Capital Punishment – yes or no?

25 May

Yes it’s the eternal debate. No, no one has come to its conclusion.

I won’t bore you with statistics as I’m sure you can find these for yourself to either strengthen or weaken my argument.

It has existed largely due to claims of its effectiveness in deterrence. However, by comparing the countries and states that use it, the link between the murder rate and the death penalty, as well as studies of many criminologists show it does not act as an effective deterrent. This is hardly surprising though, as the people that are most likely to commit the crimes worthy of the death penalty, I’m sure we can all think of an infamous psychopath, are unlikely to be deterred or care enough to distinguish between life imprisonment and execution. Despite this, many agree with the lighthouse idea that “”If we execute murderers and there is in fact no deterrent effect, we have killed a bunch of murderers. If we fail to execute murderers, and doing so would in fact have deterred other murders, we have allowed the killing of a bunch of innocent victims. I would much rather risk the former. This, to me, is not a tough call.”

In the 21st century, we would expect that if the death penalty is still thriving in certain states, then the most human methods possible would be used. Currently the methods vary between the lethal injection, a gas chamber, electrocution, hanging and a firing squad. Studies are still being conducted as to how some of these can be considered “humane”. Do we even need studies to do this for us?

Many of us see it as an abuse of human rights, which I personally find bitterly ironic despite the universal nature of these rights, which has become an increasingly sensitive subject. Let us compare our attitude towards the death penalty to the recently cancelled Chinese show “Interview before execution” in which journalist Ding Yu would interview people on death row every week, often those with only 30 minutes or so before they were to be executed. Videos which were available a few months ago have conveniently disappeared…

Closure for the families of the victims is an argument which has become less prominent as even families of victims have signed petitions to have the death penalty abolished despite their obvious emotional connections with it. Also, I don’t believe even doing so would bring any form of sufficient closure to victims families. The argument that by doing so we are somehow “treating darkness with darkness”, “evil with evil” or “stooping down to their level” is absolutely ridiculous. Should retribution not exist within out JUSTICE system? What IS pathetic is the fact that for killing someone, people often receive a maximum of 8 years under the UK’s legal system. Well that seems fair doesn’t it? By accepting our citizenship to whichever country we belong to, we agree to adhere to the laws within it, despite the fact we don’t have much of a choice. I don’t see why the death penalty should be any different. Although horribly overused I don’t see why “an eye for an eye” should not apply.

I must admit, that as a Jew, the religious perspective is a little confusing. The commandment not to kill is contradictory to the “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” principle. Jewish courts that implemented the death penalty did exist, though there were an exhaustive number of conditions which meant it was hardly ever applied as well as being encouraged to avoid it. People claim that the state should not be responsible for people’s lives however the state is almost definitely in control, not only through the justice system, but of almost every aspect of our lives. Isn’t this simply a reason reform and develop the state? The issue of cost, due to the length of time that people are on death row, is not solved through execution, but again, isn’t this just a reason to reform the death penalty rather than abolish it?

My final point, and the only reason that I cannot wholeheartedly agree with the death penalty is the possibility of convicting the innocent. This is best demonstrated by quoting William Blackstone, “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than one innocent suffer”. Although some argue that this has largely been a result of legal technicalities rather than fundamental changes, there have been 130 exonerations in theUSsince 1973. The case of Derek Bentley, familiar to theUK, saw justice being provided 45 years after his hanging.

Without this issue, which outweighs all arguments in favour of the death penalty in my belief, and the other restrictive technicalities, I would have no moral objection to the death penalty.