This subject is becoming seriously heavy. I had intended today to recount an interesting although depressing experience at a court sitting not so long ago but the explosion of the Ministry of Justice`s output on cautions has put paid to that in the interests of being topical.
I would imagine that in times past the law was simple. Hammurabi, 6th King of Babylon, knew a thing or two about enabling his subjects to go about their “lawful” business. Indeed he impressed the Israelites so much with his legal code that a couple of centuries later a certain prophet by the name of Moses refined it for his own purposes. Of course as society became literate and property ownership was obtained by contract as opposed to the sword lawyers naturally employed their literary skills to protect their clients` interests. Criminal law similarly progressed from the biblical injunction to current times at a rate which was nothing less than overwhelming until today when we have a Court of Appeal, over which a Superior Court is there to oversee its decisions which can then be taken to the ECHR if needs be. Perhaps legal Russian dolls is a fitting image.
Since I posted yesterday`s topic the Ministry has vomited byte upon byte on “cautions”. One such document, “The Quick Reference Guide to Out of Court Disposals” goes to 24 pages. The accompanying document “Simple Cautions for Adult Offenders” extends to another 24 pages and 80 sections. There is a similar story on “Penalty Notices for Disorder”. All these and others similar can be found on the Ministry of Justice website here.
Is it any wonder that there is disagreement amongst all the involved parties on the morality, efficacy and practicality on the cautioning of offenders and other out of court decisions when these decisions have to be made fairly quickly by a station sergeant or an officer on the beat. Does there not come a time when simplicity should rule over the minutiae of legislation? Is the legal profession enjoying dancing on a pinhead with all those angels? Would we as citizens be disadvantaged if there were less box ticking and greater reliance on first principles in the application of the criminal law? In other words has the view of justice been lost within the sight of the law?