Magna Carta and all that

Magna Carta and all that

Famous American satirist Tom Lehrer gave up in despair when arch Vietnam hawk Henry Kissinger, held to be responsible for many thousands of deaths, was awarded the Nobel peace prize. He said he couldn’t compete with that.

I think I know what he meant. Regular readers of this blog will be well aware of my hobby horse of how successive administrations have wilfully thrown away personal freedoms born of Magna Carta.

Now comes the news that justice secretary Chris Grayling is to stage an international conference next year on the anniversary of Magna Carta to celebrate the achievements of the British legal system. He will hold a three day global law summit in February 2015 to mark 800 years of legal history.

February is four months early because an inconvenient May general election could prove embarrassing.

Grayling said it would showcase “the UK’s unrivalled legal expertise, based on a long history of freedom and justice.” But a meeting of criminal barristers and solicitors raised the possibility of shaming the justice secretary into reconsidering the proposed legal aid cuts by withdrawing support for the high-profile conference. The view was expressed that it was inappropriate to celebrate the rule of law alongside the minister accused of undermining it.

Speaking on behalf of all six criminal circuit leaders, Sarah Forshaw QC said it would be “rank hypocrisy” for the MoJ to make political capital from something for which it had no regard. She added: “If Mr Grayling seeks to promote himself, his position and UK plc at that event, he should sit on that platform alone. The bar should withdraw its support. So too should any member of the legal profession who genuinely values our rule of law.”

Planning is well under way for the global summit, with support from the lawyers’ professional bodies as well as the City of London and the MoJ. It is intended to be a valuable showcase for English commercial law, an important invisible export that makes a significant contribution to the UK’s balance of payments.

A decision by the legal profession to pull out of the event would be highly embarrassing for the justice secretary. Arguably his pet project could not continue without the profession’s support.

This post was written by:

- who has written 462 posts on Upper Case – The Anya Legal Journal.

Mike Gribbin is a retired Civil Servant with wide experience, including the drafting and implementation of Parliamentary legislation and regulations. He is the editor of “Criminal Offences Handbook”, a uniquely comprehensive guide to more than one thousand ways to fall foul of UK criminal law. He is Editor of the Upper Case Legal Journal and has been writing blog posts for the past eight years.

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