Speak Up, Speak Out

The other day I blogged about the fact that I viewed it as the duty of a lawyer to use the invitation to speak at the Global Law Summit as an opportunity to berate the Government. Here is what I would say if given the opportunity….

“When I received my invitation to this event the first thought that crossed my mind was ‘I had no idea there was another barrister called Jaime Hamilton, I wonder how I can get this misdirected invitation to the person they really intended to invite?’

My second thought was ‘they can forget it if they think I am adding my limited credibility to their junket by taking part….’ There were a few other words in there beginning with “F” but you get the general idea.

However then I thought to myself that the Magna Carta and everything it represents was worth celebrating and defending. So here I am to tell you the path ahead leads us two ways. One way means this is little more than a wake after this Government has buried the rule of law and dances on its grave. The other way means that we can still save the ideals of liberty and equality that have been built over centuries.

The purpose of this Summit is to sell the idea of quintessential British justice to the rest of the world. That is what draws the oligarchs of this world to our courts to settle their disputes. That reputation has been hard earned. Now this Government is going to toss it away so cheaply.

Pointing to the litigation in the mercantile court as being indicative of our legal system is a little like pointing to the track at Silverstone as being indicative of the state of our roads. As miscarriage of justice follows miscarriage of justice, as newspaper report of injustice to the individual follows newspaper report, as the fabric of our court buildings decay and as solicitors are driven out of business the reputation that this nation has for justice will go the way of its reputation for shipbuilding, a lost industry.

However the thing that sickens me is that this is not an industry. As you sit here with your £1,500 per head tickets you are feeding off a reputation built by publicly funded lawyers who earn that amount per month. You are doing it off the reputation built by charities prepared to do pro bono work in our communities. You are doing it off the reputation built because we used to have a justice system that was open to all, not just commerce, not just the rich.

The perception of the Magna Carta is almost more important than the words it contained. And the perception is that it created a truly universal and incorruptible justice system. Where the law recognised the rights of the pauper with equal measure as the nobleman. Where the individual is protected against the excesses of the State.

And now this Government restricts access to judicial review. It cuts the availability of legal aid with no assessment of its impact. It slashes fees with no thoughts about the consequences. Do not sit here and celebrate. Sit here and grieve.

It is not too late but it will be soon. The Magna Carta was born from rebellious stirrings against King John. The Lord Chancellor needs to learn from that lesson of history. Make him hear the disquiet. Make him hear the malcontent.

Turn this event into a celebration and a defence. Speak up and speak out. And then hopefully we will have something worth celebrating in another 100 years.”

So it is undoubtedly better that I am not invited. However you are all invited to the Justice Alliance event on 23rd February that you can find here. It is not £1,500 per head, will be a lot more fun and will be the place where those really interested in justice can be seen.

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