The following piece first appeared in THE FIRM…….. the on line legal magazine.
We pursue an annual increase in our GDP but everyone I know is getting poorer. Where does it all go?
Meanwhile QCs like me have seen the cost of litigation rise to such a level that QCs themselves can’t afford it. Before you rejoice remember you can’t afford it either. You can’t defend your own property.
The best lawyers no longer want to be judges. No one brings them interesting cases any more. For all the use it is we might as well dismantle our whole civil justice system.
Now read on.
THE FAILURE OF THE LAW
By Ian Hamilton QC
We are a property owning democracy. The ownership of property depends on several things. The first is a settled society. This by and large we have. Yet a settled society is of no use if we cannot call on the law to protect our rights. This we no longer can do. The law has failed us. No ordinary citizen can afford it.
I write as a retired person of very moderate means. I have been self employed all my life which means that my pension is small. I had hoped to supplement it by my investments. I had intended that my investments should go to my widow so that she would live in reasonable comfort after my death. I therefore invested much of my savings in the best of the best and the safest of the safe. I did as my parents had done and my forefathers likewise. I invested in the banks. They failed me.
In failing me they failed a great many others. I tried suing the Royal Bank of Scotland in the small claims court. That would have held expenses to a sum I could afford. The sheriff remitted the case to the ordinary court which would have meant expenses far beyond anything that the ordinary saver can afford. This is particularly so if the saver has just lost his savings. I couldn’t afford the ordinary court. I had to abandon my case. What then is my remedy?
I have searched my mind for the last two years for a remedy and I can find none. I cannot afford to sue the directors of the bank yet I believe that they were at fault. I may be wrong. I might lose. One always faces the chance of losing in any litigation. I cannot even face the chance of losing my litigation. I am debarred from suing because I cannot afford it.
I first entered the law in the middle of last century. It seemed to me then that the 1947 Legal Aid Act opened the law to people of moderate means. That was the intention of the legislation. I remember seeing the notice to that effect in every sub post office in the country. People of moderate means can no longer get legal aid. My house, my small pension and what is left of my savings would take me far beyond any chance of assisted litigation. I am left with a grievance and no remedy. I pose the question. What is the use of a property owning democracy if we have no accessible law to protect our property?
Sir Fred Goodwin was, I believe, the author of my misfortune. I may be wrong but I cannot test my belief in the courts. His actions go untested.
The lack of property litigation is having its effect on the people appointed to the judiciary. No longer do the best lawyers seek appointment as Senators of the College of Justice. They know that to do so will mean an endless round of criminal jury trials which are not testing of the highly honed legal mind. The best legal minds are now in the solicitor’s branch of the profession and in the multi-national corporations.
It is by the latter that we are now ruled; not by the government. These international companies are no longer responsible to the law of any one country. The Financial Services Agency here in the UK is a joke. It controls nothing and if it did the banks would flit. Banks and other international conglomerates are like shipping companies. They fly to the flag of the most convenient state.
My vote can help to change my government. No vote can call Sir Fred Goodwin to account. The law has failed me. Our property owning democracy is a sham.