In the last two days I have blogged/ranted/whined about the state of the criminal justice system. The courts are hurtling towards ineptitude and injustice, the prison system teeters on the edge of disintegration.
Who cares? I hear you cry. Why should the public, press and politicians care?
Every citizen should care, every journalist should examine this scandal , every politician should do all they can to understand the problem because the criminal law and the courts are absolutely central to our society.
No civilisation has ever existed without rules. Those rules give structure and set the standards of the civilisation. To enforce those rules the civilisation creates a system of sanctions. Then the civilisation shows that it lives by its deeds as well as its words by ensuring the sanctions are never imposed unjustly.
This is the sort of model that we would look to export throughout the world. Our concept of democracy is not just about an election or two. It is this idea of rights and responibilities, crime and punishment, law and equality before the law.
Our society looks to the law on an almost daily basis, no more so than at times of strife or concern. So we worry about young men going to Syria to join jihadists and BoJo suggests (admittedly ludicrous) criminal offences to ensure the safety of the nation. Concerns are raised about domestic abuse and the talk turns to legislation.
Whenever public safety is called into question, whenever there is the whiff of scandal in the establishment, whenever the sense of national morality requires resetting; we as a nation turn to the law and lawyers – Judge led inquiries with the examination and testing of evidence in public forums. This is what the public place their trust in.
This is why every simple case in the magistrates’ court is a gem in our democratic crown. Every exponent of the law, of rules of evidence and of the skills of the advocate are a vital player on our democratic stage.
We, as a society, set out to be better than those who break the rules by rising above the frailties of the individual and offering them the protection of the law.
This is all very noble. It is also all very vital. This is all in decline. We, as nation, need to recognise the value and importance of what we are losing. Before it is lost.