Law and Justice

Saturday 26th November

I mentioned Billy Bragg a couple of days ago and I was reminded of one of his lyrics “This isn’t a Court of Justice, this is a Court of Law”.  And sometimes the Courts are called Law Courts and sometimes Courts of Justice, but our perceptions of Laws and Justice are not quite the same thing.  We mostly (except the Super-rich) accept that Laws are to be obeyed and if one transgresses and is discovered then one should be tried, the Law applied and Justice duly administered.  But it doesn’t always work out that way.  Laws are passed by Parliament and it is then for Judges and Lawyers to interpret them, and when a question of Law is disputed then opposing Solicitors and Barristers will argue and, often going by precedent, the Law will come down on one side or the other.

However we, the general public, being ignorant of all the complexities of Law have a different perception of Justice, or what we might consider the lack of it.  Often after a sentence has been passed the Media will interview victims or relatives of victims and ask if they feel that they have received Justice.  In Law, the opinion of relatives, or indeed the victim themselves, does not matter; the whole point of having Law is to take revenge and retribution away from those directly involved in a dispute or a crime and to have an independent Judiciary decide guilt or not and to administer punishment if appropriate.  But people’s gut feelings are somewhat different; a crime has been committed and someone must pay.  And the punishment should fit the crime (almost) – we have come a long way from “an eye for an eye”, but still there is that popular feeling that Justice is not being delivered, and that Lawyers and Judges are not being fair to the victims and are protecting the perpetrators of crime; and of course this is fed by the Media.

And then there are the miscarriages of Justice.  Every few years a case comes up where either evidence was corrupted or new evidence emerges to prove the innocence of someone convicted of a crime, and after an Appeal, and sometimes a re-trial a new verdict may be decided.  And often we are just as outraged that Justice was denied to somebody.  Complicated?  It makes you wonder who would be a Lawyer; until you see the fees they charge….hahaha