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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This book reveals what New Labour is really doing to the law, 4 Dec. 2004
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This review is from: Just Law (Hardcover)
Helena Kennedy is a barrister who sits on the Labour benches in the House of Lords. From a working class background, she has made her way to the top of her profession. She believes passionately in human rights and their central position in a healthy democracy and this book sprang from her alarm and despondency at what the Blair government is doing to those rights under the legal system. The attack on our right to a trial by jury raises her anger, and her contempt for those who should be her political soulmates is obvious. She asks why we lock up so many of our children in deplorable conditions - we have more in custody than any of our European partners. The antisocial exclusion orders do not please her either. Not because she is a "whinging, bleeding-heart liberal" but because it flouts the principles of our law. Exclusion orders are issued on the basis of the balance of probabilities, as in civil law. Guilt does not depend on the issue being established beyond reasonable doubt. Yet flouting of the orders can result in a prison sentence for up to five years.
So supposed miscreants can be put away for a substantial time on the lesser degree of proof. There has already been evidence of neighbours using the procedure to get back at people they dislike. Kennedy sees this as unjust yet it has hardly been noticed yet alone discussed in the media.
Other subjects she discusses are imprisonment without trial in terrorist crimes and the divulging of past offences to a jury before they consider their verdict in a court case. All her arguments are based on long-established tenets of our judicial system. Tony Blair says that the balance is tipped too far against the victims of crime. What he does not say is that the accused are innocent until proved guilty. Innocent people are sent to jail for decades, their lives in ruins, yet the government seems to be unconcerned except to charge them board and lodgings for all their years behind bars.
The title of the book comes from a meeting the author had with a government whip after she had voted against the party on one of these issues. "It's just law!" he said, using the word 'just' as 'only' or 'merely'. She means 'just' as 'fair', nicely contrasting her more noble purpose to his cynical remark.
Kennedy wrote the book very quickly and it sometimes shows in some repetition but she was clearly a very angry lady. Her message is very important indeed. Authoritarianism seems in the ascendent in the USA and UK and we are sleepwalking towards a rather unpleasant world.
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