The Scots Law Student

The SLS : Life and trials of learning law in Scotland

Tag: democracy

Democracy

We have a new Prime Minister, so election fever is pretty much over for now but I was listening to an address on human rights by Aharon Barak yesterday that really puts voting into perspective.

In September 1999, an expanded panel of nine judges of the Supreme Court of Israel unanimously repealed the former governmental guidelines regarding use of physical means during interrogations, this is part of what Judge Aharon Barak said:

This is the destiny of democracy, as not all means are acceptable to it, and not all practices employed by its enemies are open before it. Although a democracy must often fight with one hand tied behind its back, it nonetheless has the upper hand. Preserving the Rule of Law and recognition of an individual’s liberty constitutes an important component in its understanding of security. At the end of the day, they strengthen its spirit and its strength and allow it to overcome its difficulties

Do we need an (elected) House of Lords?

The House of Lords is a curious piece of constitutional framework but I think it’s better than the alternative. I don’t like that I have an MSP, an MP, an MEP and a couple of local councils (I live in one council area while I work and study in another). I think there has to be one or two too many cooks in that equation. I’ve got a funny feeling none of them particularly listen to me on the future state of the world and therefore do I really need 5 elected bodies to not particularly listen to my views? Do I need another?

The idea that the House of Lords should be elected is built on sound ideological foundations – democracy is good. I think it really is good, I just don’t see why people need multiple identical elected representatives to represent them. I think, if the second house will be made up by people voted for by the same people and arranged in the same political parties who will decide along party lines on the same legislation, this only happens because we assume we need a second house at all. Why would we? It’s exactly the same as the lower house.

I don’t want an elected House of Lords, I want a differently constituted upper house or I want us to save a bit of money by getting rid of it entirely. The whole point of the House of Lords is that it’s supposed to be able to resist the hue and cry of the masses and look at things objectively, the whole point of the House of Commons is that it’s supposed to listen to the voters.

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Woman dismissed from jury for Facebook postings

There was a short piece in Monday’s Guardian:

Juror shares trial details on Facebook

“A female juror was dismissed from a trial after posting details of the case on Facebook and asking friends whether they thought the defendants were guilty.

The woman went against strict rules forbidding jurors from discussing cases with family and friends by posting details of the sexual assault and child abduction trial on the social networking site.”

I think a number of issues are quite salient here – firstly it’s the seriousness of the case, I don’t like the connections that the two charges conjure up personally and I think it’s pretty horrible if she was posting this. Especially since the regular media would be working with a child protection restriction due to the age of the victim. Secondly it’s the fact that she was asking for other peoples’ opinions on the case. Think about the ramifications of this – for a few, short hours or days there was a poll on Facebook that actually meant something. This is a very unusual state of affairs indeed.

The next issue is the effect that the additional scale of democracy would have had on the legitimacy of that trial – if 12 peers is enough to convict a person of a crime, then what does 100 votes on the matter mean?

While it’s clear that there is no way that the people from Facebook would have had the information required to make any sort of reasoned judgement it’s an interesting thought – benches of 5 judges produce more persuasive case law that judges sitting alone, does this extend to juries too?

Facebook, Jurors and the Veil (Law Actually)