In Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim I saw amongst the monuments of the ancient Kings of Norway one who bore the noblest title of them all: he was Magnus Lagabøte; Magnus the Law-Mender.
Freedom requires the rule of law, and that law has to be both practical and comprehensible. Lord Mansfield as Lord Chief Justice carried out by judicial authority some dramatic reforms of mediaeval law and procedure, all within the limits of existing precedent, and Parliament finally began to do its duty as law-mender in the Victorian period. Since that time, the problem has not been ancient laws but modern ones. Acts of Parliament which made sense when they were written have been left to fester out of their time, and more and more statutory intervention has been piled up out of passing political needs and virtue signalling. Statute law is no longer practical nor comprehensible.
Where statutes are silent, judges are left to interpret the common law on their own, and generally they do a far better job than parliamentarians at making law. (The nominal position is that they interpret and discover existing law, but that is not always an honest way of looking at it.) On occasion, the logic and precedent take them to a position which should draw parliamentary intervention, but Parliament is not interested these days in anything but political games.
Law reform should not be a party-political issue, even if the shape of the actual reforms will be.
Several fields should be considered, and this is a work in progress to be built up on this site. We have referred to some fields ripe for reform before, but we will with a short list, to be expanded later:
- Criminal law codification
- Judicial Review
- Housing law consolidation
- Local government law consolidation
- Trials of the State: Law and the Decline of Politics by Jonathan Sumption (retired Supreme Court Justice)
- Montesquieu: The Spirit of the Laws
- De Cive by Thomas Hobbes
- Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes
- Behemoth: The History of the Causes of the Civil Wars of England, and the Councils and Artifices by Which They Were Carried on from the Year 1640 to the Year 1660 by Thomas Hobbes
- Thomas Hobbes – Behemoth (Clarendon edition)
- The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
(More to follow.)