What a momentous week to start my legal blog.
The biggest divorce in UK history has been avoided and even better, Mishcon De Reya didn’t receive a penny in fees. It was compelling stuff for us lot south of the border even though we weren’t directly involved – the constitutional equivalent of watching a couple of obese neighbours mud wrestling.
The idea of Scotland going it alone was too much for some to bear but I doubt any of them were lawyers. Scotland has always had its own legal system, largely independent of England, and has made a rather good job of it. Their system has developed through the application of Roman- Dutch principles rather English Legal theory. This means that strict adherence to legal precedent and common law is discouraged in favour of deciding cases after getting pissed on red wine, engaging in orgies and smoking marijuana.
Scotland’s legal system has been called archaic and stuffy. It’s not. It’s great. It has terms like assoilzie, multiplepoinding and trial diet that are slightly sinister but very cool and, let’s be honest,would you rather be a plain old Crown Prosecutor or, the fantastically evocative, Procurator Fiscal. It also, more importantly, still aspires to such outmoded ideals as fairness and, wait for it, justice; concepts that we long since abandoned.
In Scotland, if you want to appeal a useless, unjust decision by a judge in a civil claim you have an automatic right to do so. Not so in England where you must get permission to appeal. And from who do you seek that permission, yes that’s right, initially from the judge who made the useless decision. He, and it’s almost always a he, will ask “Why do want to Appeal ?” and you say “because you erred in law and were manifestly wrong”, to which he replies “sod off you cheeky so and so.”
A little tip for you. If you’re planning to kill someone by an act of negligence, do it in England not Scotland. In England damages paid for bereavement or the loss of a loved one are fixed at £12980 and are only payable to spouses or civil partners of the deceased or parents, if the deceased was under 18. In Scotland, eligibility for bereavement damages is much wider and damages are decided on a case by case basis depending on the circumstances of the death. They think that this is more likely to end in a just result. They’re right.
Some more advice. If you want to give a bloke a permanent asbestos related disease which leaves his lungs scarred and creates a lifelong fear of developing a more serious, potentially fatal illness, make sure you do it in England. You won’t have to pay him a penny. In Scotland you would have to compensate him on the basis that it would be the right thing to do.
Ah justice, that old chestnut. Very last year. Haven’t you heard up there that certainty and predictability now trump justice. Do keep up chaps.
A dead giveaway that justice was the last thing on this Government’s mind was the creation of the Ministry of Justice.Golden rule- if it’s in the name it will be last thing it aspires to. Just as democracy was the last thing on the minds of the meglomaniacs who created the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or The Democratic Republic of Congo who, interestingly were all educated at the same public schools that produced the senior civil servants that run the MOJ.
Whenever you hear that other Orwellian phrase so beloved of Home Office politicians “Access to Justice” you just know that behind the scenes every conceivable barrier to that end is being hastily erected. Justice comes at a price and we’re not paying it.
Scotland decided to stay in the Union this time but there’s no danger of there ever being a union of our legal systems. They’ve got far too much to lose.