Jeremy Hutchinson has written this excellent piece for the New Statesman (at the grand age of 100 years old), analyzing the recent history of the justice system, as a postscript to his book “Jeremy Hutchinson’s Case Histories”.
It explores the effect of the abolition of the post of Lord Chancellor upon the relationship between politicians and the judiciary. The appointment of Christopher Grayling, a management consultant not a lawyer, to the post of Justice Secretary (and subsequently Michael Gove) has set a precedent for non-lawyers dabbling in an area that has been delicately balanced for centuries - the cutting of legal aid has had a devastating effect on access to justice for those with low incomes.
It also looks into the relationship between advocates and judges, in the courts - the introduction of the five-yearly QASA scheme, involving the assessment of an advocate's competence by the judiciary. How can an advocate stand up to an overbearing or erroneous judge, if his career depends on toadying up to the judiciary?
Other areas explored include the fusing of the barrister profession with solicitors, the removal of the jury, overcrowding in prisons, and the proposed changes to human rights legislation.
It's a fascinating and inspiring read, and makes one wonder just how much we're giving up of our justice system, all in the name of saving money.
In 2003 Tony Blair, supporting his autocratic and oppressive Home Secretary David Blunkett, without consultation or advice, sacked his protesting Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine, and abolished the office itself. Thus, on the whim of an arrogant and power-hungry politician the second greatest office of state was destroyed, after 800 years. The Lord Chancellor was the head of the judiciary: he sat in the Cabinet at the centre of power; he represented justice and the rule of law, and made sure that ministers respected that rule. He was a central pillar of our unwritten constitution. Of course the presence of an unelected judge amid a group of democratically elected politicians was on the face of it an anachronism.