The Magistrate's Blog (2005-2012)

This blog has migrated to www.magistratesblog.blogspot.co.uk This blog is anonymous, and Bystander's views are his and his alone. Where his views differ from the letter of the law, he will enforce the letter of the law because that is what he has sworn to do. If you think that you can identify a particular case from one of the posts you are wrong. Enough facts are changed to preserve the truth of the tale but to disguise its exact source.

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Location: Near London, United Kingdom

The blog is written by a retired JP, with over 30 years' experience on the Bench.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Iron Laws Of Nature

There are some well-known laws that were never passed by a legislature, but rather emerged from life's sometimes grim lessons. There is of course the law of Sod and the related law of Murphy, which states that if anything can go wrong, then it will.
The law that serves, time after time, to trip up politicians and lawmakers is of course the Law of Unintended Consequences. A new law or a policy is proposed that will deal with a problem - that is a Good Thing, so it comes to pass, without too much head-scratching or debate. A while later, once the new arrangements are in place, it dawns on everyone that the Good Thing will unfortunately foul up one or more other Good Things - and that is a Bad Thing.
There is a good example abroad at the moment. Legal Aid is being relentlessly cut. Good Thing for the deficit, Bad Thing for justice, court timetables (as unrepresented defendants take much longer to deal with that those with proper lawyers) and prison numbers. We are rightly sensitive to the interests of victims, especially in domestic violence and sexual offence cases - Good Thing. Without Legal Aid (see above) many defendants have to conduct their own case - Bad Thing. Witnesses have to be cross-examined - Legal Thing. Defendant cross-examining woman he may have raped or beaten - Very Bad Thing. So the court has the power to instruct a solicitor purely for the purpose of cross-examination - Good Thing. But the lawyer has to read all the papers, which takes just as much time as running the case from the beginning - Bad Thing. And here's a cracker - this work is chargeable at the solicitor's full private client rate, rather than the niggardly Legal Aid rates - Bad Thing (unless you are a solicitor). So the cross-examination alone costs more than instructing a lawyer on Legal Aid for the whole trial - Bad Thing.
It's an Unintended Consequence, you see.