Mercifully Danny Boyle’s astonishing opening ceremony to the Olympic games on Friday, in which I am proud to say my dad was drumming his heart out, neglected to pay homage to at least one great British institution: the law.
As I was getting my daughter ready for nursery this morning I listened to the heartbreaking story of the mother campaigning for a change in the law to give parents a right to time off for the death of a child. If my little girl’s general loveliness was not enough to make me realise how lucky I am to have her, then this tragic tale certainly was.
Just as with anything else that requires human input, justice is not an exact science. Even when evidence seems irrefutable, there are often other factors, such as intent and causation or errors in procedure, making outcomes that may seem certain anything but. Nonetheless, we have an expectation that the justice system is capable of producing the ‘right’ verdict in any given trial and feel both uncomfortable and aggrieved when this isn’t the case.
There are, I am led to believe, quite a few people out there who aren’t at all interested in football. It must be very annoying for them that even though the football season and the Euros are over (Olympic football doesn’t count), football is still on the front page of the newspapers, and not in a good way.
It’s miserable outside, seriously miserable, and with no sign of summer in sight. It doesn’t look much the arrival of the Olympics is going to bring much cheer either as the security debacle rumbles on and the brand police start fining businesses using the words 'gold', 'summer' or 'London' in their advertising. You can’t even go and let your hair down for a weekend as music festivals are being cancelled all over the place and there is no chance of anything so traditionally summery as a picnic. So let’s all go on holiday.
Anyone watching the excellent BBC Four series The Strange Case of the Lawcan’t fail to have noticed the irony inherent in his premise that the English common law system can be traced back to the simple compensation culture of early Anglo-Saxon Kent. If anything should dispel the myth that we are slipping, or indeed have slipped, into an alarming spiral of moral decline brought about by an American-style propensity to sue for anything and everything, this should be it.
I have just finished reading Bad Science by Ben Goldacre. If you haven’t read it, you really should, especially if, like me, you are a ‘humanities graduate with little understanding of science’ and who wears my ‘ignorance as a badge of honour’ (well, less so the last bit). It got me thinking, if it’s dangerous not to understand science (witness the MMR scandal) it must also be dangerous not to understand the law.
I was amused to read that at least one legal entrepreneur thinks lawyers are ‘in denial about what customers hate about law firms’. With probably only one exception Ajaz Ahmed, the founder of Freeserve and co-founder of the award-winning Legal365, said last week that ‘there has been a complete and utter lack of any innovation, disruption or new business models’ in the legal profession.
The joke that landed Paul Chambers with a £385 fine and a criminal conviction that lost him his job probably didn’t make anyone laugh much when he first tweeted it. His ‘threat’ to blow a snow-bound airport ‘sky high’ unless it re-opened in ‘a week and a bit’ doesn’t rank alongside the funniest jokes ever told. But the furore unleashed by his unamusing tweet has made English justice a bit of a laughing stock.