Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Traditional Conservative Views on the Law

Traditional Conservative Views on the Law

Let me start off with a joke:

Q: Whats 19 foot long and gives the greatest of pleasure?

A: A busload of Lawyers going over a cliff.

Now you may or may not find that joke funny, I've had some success with it. But what isn't funny is the contempt that so many of us hold for the Courts and the officers of the court, Lawyers. How can it be that a profession that is so vital to the working of Civilization is held in such contempt?

Today there are parts of the world were law is not about courts or Lawyers but about might, even whim. How would you fare in sure a place? But instead of having guilt or innocence decided by whim or by might we have Courts and Lawyers and a long legal tradition. It is this long legal tradition that we rely on to protect us. That each person in the process knows their role and agrees upon the rules. That there are independent outsiders who also have a say in how the courts run, namely Parliament.

But with all this the Law is held in contempt, not because it's job isn't seen as important, in fact quite the opposite. The importance of the task is accepted by nearly everyone. It is the way these tasks are carried out that draws contempt and sometimes that is unfair. The Courts must act as the law allows them too. Parliament and the politicians who sit there are responsible for a good deal of that contempt. It is they who have taken away capital punishment for example and that a life sentence should mean life. It is they who decide how much or how little should be handed out as punishment. A Judge may want to hang a burglar, he might even sentence him to death, but of course it would not stand because the law Parliament passed doesn't allow for such a punishment. Now I only put that forward as an extreme example. The politicians decide how many people may end up in jail, not the judges, if there is no room than the guilty must be given some other sentence than jail. The fault of the Parliaments in how the Courts are views is too often forgotten and it shouldn't be.

The expansion of courts has also added to that contempt, when most people think of a court they think of people who are accused of crimes of being there, murder, rape, assault, theft etc. But most people go to court for petty reasons or to Family Court (which may or may not be petty). The reach of the law into our lives has increased quite a lot within the last century. We can be fined for not having a seatbelt on or for smoking in the wrong place. And Family Court seems to be an endless pit of misery. A legal misery that hardly even existed 50 years ago and we all get to pay for the Courthouses, the Judges and the Lawyers. Not to mention the social chaos that results. It is this social chaos that informs much of our contempt as it shows how little our opinion or well being is taken into account. We are informed of whats good for us and we are told we must obey. The idea that Parliament or the Courts are on our side gets harder to believe.

Sadly the Courts have their own problems, caused by themselves. Parliament may set the limits of the law but it is Judges that get to make decisions and it is us who must live with the consequences. When a Judge decides that small sentences are fair, they set themselves up to be criticized. It is their duty to protect as well as to punish. The community doesn't want one or the other we want both and it the Courts job to provide us with both.

A further reason for our contempt is that there are too many Lawyers. Too much competition in this case is bad. It encourages bad behavior as only the most ruthless will succeed and that does neither the Law nor us any service. Too much competition in the Law also encourages practices that take away from the Laws dignity, our dignity. Advertising is one such area, Law firms should not be allowed to advertise on TV or Radio as it makes the Law, a commercial business. At no stage should the Law be a commercial business, it has a much greater task and that is to protect Civilization by protecting us.

The Law is one of the few areas of human endeavour that is needed to service Civilization. The lack of law is not the rule of barbarians, but the rule of the weather. Very fickle indeed. Laws allow might to have it's place but not decide everything. And the great strength of the law is it's age and traditions. It has not been decided by this generations fashions, or even by the fashions of our Grandfathers generation. Instead it is built up over time with Parliament providing input. It is not a perfect system, but Conservatives do not seek such a system. It's virtues must be encouraged and supported, just as we must oppose and reject it's vices. Only precedent can save the Law from being a tyranny for without precedent there is only whim.

Unfortunately the Law has been removed from our hands and our role is to support the views expressed in Parliament. Once Parliament represented us, we agreed on the whole with the punishments given out, but now we are told our opinion isn't important. Judges talk about community standards but ignore the actual community. The actual community should decide more of the law.

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