Judicial Reform and Bill of Rights

Many people believe the present UK judicial system is unfair, old fashioned and in need of a major reform. The cost of legal aid has soared in the last ten years, and solicitors often charge 100 an hour to hire, with barristers costing even more. Even though citizens who cannot afford these rates may be entitled to free legal aid, a lot of people simply don't bother because the time and cost impediments cause more trouble than the case itself.

There is great competition between solicitors firms for business, and many people think that the more a solicitor costs, the better the quality of advice is, which is not always the case. Even though the 'no win, no fee' formats introduced to solicitors by the Lord Chancellor are unjust, as the firms tend to take most of the compensation as legal fees. Another reason, which may suggest a need for a reform, is the fact that British judges are un-elected and so are undemocratic.

The present system is not only elitist, but it favours white, middle class, well educated males, proving that it can be a racist, sexist, class discriminating system. The public has no choice in deciding who judges and adjourns various cases. A less distinguished point that criticises the UK judicial system is the number of scandals involving Freemasons and other 'secret clubs' in the structure. Two successive governments have conducted three formal inquiries on the extent of corruption by Freemasons in the judicial system and in municipal government.

The government inquiries concluded that Freemasonry was having a negative effect on justice in the UK and recommended that is should be made a declarable interest so that all Freemasons publicly register if they are Judges, police officers, Magistrates, prosecutors, Crown Officers, Prison guards or parole officers. Only a small number of Freemasons have actually come forward, which would suggest that they might see themselves as being beyond and above the law.

Presently, the court of final appeal lies in the House of Lords, and since Law Lords are selected and appointed by the un-elected Lord Chancellor, this court is undemocratic and could be accused of being biased. At present many people believe the House of Lords if dominated by Conservative favouring right-wingers, similar to the American supreme courts. If we decided to adopt a Supreme Court as opposed to a court of final appeal in the Lords in Britain, unless it was elected the problem of possible bias would not be eradicated.

The nine Supreme Court judges in the US were appointed by previous Presidents, and with seven favouring Republican ideology and only two opting for the Democrats, it is very unjust. An example of the possible unfairness could be the recent US presidential elections, where the supreme court voted Republican George W Bush as President as opposed to having another recount of voted which would have suited most Democrat supporters. The head of the judicial system is the appointed Lord Chancellor, and even though this is a very important position, it is one of the least accountable ones.

Therefore, the Lord Chancellor does not have to take responsibility for any mistakes or decisions. Even a replacement of the Lord Chancellor with a department of justice would have to be elected to eradicate unfairness, although a group of people would probably better than a single person in charge of the judicial system. An example of the biased nature of the Lord Chancellor could be the case when the department headed by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine, faced an accusation of sex discrimination from a woman solicitor.

Jane Coker, a legal aid lawyer from north London, took the department to an industrial tribunal over the appointment of a man as Lord Irvine's special adviser. Coker's solicitor said that the Lord Chancellor had broken the law by not even offering the job to her, and instead appointing another man whom he had been friends with. This is not the only report that criticises the Lord Chancellor; many different decisions has outraged people in the past, from the media when he suggested imposing bans on probing politicians to even Tony Blair.