England’s top judge, Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge (that’s a great name!) has complained that “impenetrable” criminal justice legislation is causing major delays in British trials.
The remarks are contained in the most recent annual report of the Court of Appeal Criminal Division.
In his introduction, Lord Judge writes:
“It has been another year of unremitting commitment to the administration of criminal justice. That is as it should be. What remains less tolerable is the continuing burden of comprehending and applying impenetrable legislation, primarily but not exclusively in relation to sentencing. The search for the legislative intention in the context of criminal justice legislation makes unreasonable demands on the intellectual efforts of judges and lawyers. It all takes time, very much more time than it took even a decade ago, to grapple with the diffculties. The diffculties are not confned to the workings of this Court: they apply to every Crown Court and Magistrates’ Court throughout the jurisdiction. The search for principle takes longer and longer, and in the meantime cases awaiting trial are delayed, to the disadvantage of the defendants awaiting trial, the witnesses to the events which bring the defendants to court, and the victims of those alleged crimes.”
It is fascinating to see the different ways the British press covers this sort of normally dry annual report. Here are a few examples:
- Top judge slams ‘impenetrable’ laws (UK Press Association) – straightforward summary
- ‘Unrelenting’ pressure on Court of Appeal (Law Society Gazette) – practical
- Even judges are confused by the law… says Britain’s top judge (Daily Mail) – headline humanizes judges
- Top judge complains about ‘sex with corpses’ rules – Parliament is burdening the courts with too many laws and rules on sentencing, including detailed guidelines for dealing with necrophilia, England’s most senior judge has said (The Telegraph) – now that headline has a little je ne sais quoi, doesn’t it?