Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Review - Justice in England (1938) by "A Barrister"

This book, originally written for Victor Gollanz's Left Book Club, gives an overview of the legal system in England at this time. The book describes the whole sawthe of this topic from how judges are appointed or trained, their role in courts, procedure of those courts and lots of other related issues. The great merit of the book is how it tries (usually succesfully) to explain this complex system to the lay person and the inherent class bias within it. Even though there have been several changes to the legal system in England since then, the general thrust of the analysis remains relevant today.
There are two large drawbacks to my mind with the book. Firstly is the authors insistance that simple proffessionalisation of the judiciary would result in a much fairer system, and following this his attack of juries as inherently unproffessional and thus bad justice. However, the author, as already noted, rallies against the class bias within the system which sees almost every single judge drawn from the upper or middle classes. His dismissal of juries contradicts this as this is where more working class people play a role within the legal system. Furthermore, greater professionalisation of the judiciary would probably result in a further class polaristaion, as the rich tend to have access to the best education and training, thus pushing the legal system further out of the orbit of ordinary working class people.
The second criticism to some extent flows from this, that is of the authors underlying belief that reforms are needed to better serve working people (such as greater professionalisation of judges), which comes out despite his contradictory arguement that change of the law has been resisted at every opportunity by the ruling class. History shows that workers have been forced every single concession from the ruling class or through the threat of struggle. Reformism however, pervades this book, you can see it quite clearly in the conclusion where the author talks about a 'socialist state' (an expression of Stalinist socialism in one country or Fabian reformism - see V.I. Lenin State and Revolution for a deeper understanding of the State). Unfortunately this book doesn't really provide a way foraward and that is it's biggest flaw.

Some demands they could have made (off the top of my head)

+ Regular democratic election of judges
+ Subject the judiciary to the right of recall and on no salary higher than the wage of a an average skilled worker
+ Extension of legal aid
+ Scrap the house of lords

3 comments:

Renegade Eye said...

The other aspect of inequality in the class system, is race. You can't analyze the justice system, without looking at race.

It is not news that that black and brown workers, historically have led most struggles.

Leftwing Criminologist said...

I didn't really discuss it as it doesn't come up in the book. When i finally blog about the 1980's British riots i'll end up discussing that in more detail.
I personally see racism as derived from the class system, partially because historically black and asian workers are confined to the working class, but also becuase of the political way racism is used to divide the working class. I believe it was Malcolm X that said You can't have capitalism without racism.

markin said...

IF YOU DO NOT KNOW MUCH ABOUT LENIN THEN THE DVD IS NOT BAD TO GET GENERAL INFORMATION. IF YOU DO THEN NO. ON AMAZON.COM I GAVE IT 3 STARS. A GOOD, ALTHOUGH UNSYMPATHIC, BIOGRAPHY IS BY ROBERT PAYNE. BUT IT IS DATED AND DOES NOT HAVE ANY POST-SOVIET INFORMATION ALTHOUGH THERE DOES NOT SEEM TO BE MUCH INFORMATION RELEASED FROM THOSE SOURCES THAT TROTSKYISTS WERE NOT ALREADY FAMILAR WITH.

MARKIN