I always remember a conversation with my father even though it must have taken place over fifty years ago. He was considering emigration to the United States but one of the factors that made us stay in the United Kingdom was his admiration for British justice. At around the same time I also recall a conversation with my godfather, an exceedingly clever property developer, who had a villa in Cap Ferrat to which I was invited. I was too young, 10 at the time, to understand him properly but he informed me of the switch of a judge called Fisher, son of the Archbishop of Canterbury to banking that undermined the independence of the judiciary.
Over the last few years we have seen the pillars of our judicial system undermined and what is worrying is that no one seems to care. The reason for this is that threat does not come the fascist right but the politically correct left. The concept of sub judice never seems to apply as cases are tried as much in the social networks and media as in the court room. There was an extremely well-argued piece by Matthew Syed in The Times on Monday on Chad Evans, where he pointed out the notion of rehabilitation does not seem to exist any more and he may well be successful on appeal.
Even more worrying is the widespread view that the victims should have a significant say in the choice of who should head up the child abuse scandal. If you take one step back you will realise how daft this is as it’s the purpose of an inquiry to establish whether they are victims. We have had the recent case of the poor teacher forced to defend himself from spurious charges of abuse that were rapidly dropped at trial for lack of evidence. It’s interesting to note that when Derek Wanless of the NSPCA sat as head of such an inquiry no objection was taken even though there was as much scope to claim partiality as over Elizabeth Butler Sloss or Fiona Woolf.
One of, if not the, greatest judicial achievement of the twentieth century was the Nuremberg tribunal, composed of 4 legal codes – British, French, American and Russian. Once constituted, it should have continued as human rights tribunal but the Cold War intervened. No-one suggested that the victims of the holocaust should appoint the judges and indeed certain aspects of the trial, notably the giving of Goering’s evidence, went badly for the prosecution. However there was no question of martyrdom, victor’s justice or miscarriage as all the defendants were given a full hearing.
Supposing the Police authorities were to say that we should appoint judges and heads of enquiry to ensure that known criminals are found guilty? There would rightly be an outcry yet conversely there is a continuous campaign to promote perceived rights ahead of proper and due process and the silence is eerie.