Birmingham Law Society: Respect For The Rule Of Law Is Dangerpusly Waning

Birmingham Law Society: Respect For The Rule Of Law Is Dangerpusly Waning

By Gabriel Princewill-

Respect for the rule of law is ‘waning’ and the British society is at a ‘precarious position’  in light of high profile individuals breaking the law  without any consequence, the president of Birmingham Law Society has said.

The roll-out of the vaccine across the UK – coupled with high profile rule-breaking and discontent over the tier system -are all factors which could contribute to further law breaking, the Birmingham Law Society has warned.

The conclusion  follows a  poll of 1,000 members of the public commissioned by the Law society in response to the government’s Internal Markets Bill. The results showed that 32.5% believe it is acceptable to break the law.

The survey found that almost one in four respondents admitted they would be willing to break lockdown restrictions to see family members over Christmas, while 87.6% believe that lawbreaking by those in the public eye, such as Rita Ora, damages respect for the rule of law.

With politicians continuing to warn the British public to ensure there is no lapse in the rules following a breakthrough week, leading lawyers have explained their worries that some members of the public will relax their adherence to the rule of law given a vaccine is on the horizon.

The failure to punish those in the public eye who have broken restrictions could have a ripple effect on the public’s views,’ added Brown.

‘It is up to the entire legal community to come together and work to ensure that the legal system and the rule of law is respected across society. The rule of law is one of the foundations upon which society rests and we must do all in our power to ensure it is protected.’

The researchers said a greater proportion (35.5%) thought it was acceptable for the UK government to break international law, with a further 24% admitting it depended on the reasons. No clear details was provided for why a high percentage of respondents felt it was acceptable for the government to break international law.

Over two-thirds of those interviewed (68.7%) concluded that respect for the law has decreased in the last five years. The finding is disturbing to legal experts who believe it could set a dangerous precedent for members of the public if they have little regard for the law.

The Exercise Of Power

The question of how powers currently exercised from Brussels are divided up after the transition period ends on 31 December has been topical of late,  and even resulted in clashes at the Supreme Court.

The  Internal Markets Bill is believed to be in breach of International Law, and  would give UK ministers powers to make further regulations inconsistent with the UK’s obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement,  some legal experts  have recently argued.

They insist the existence of those powers is a breach of Article 4 of the Withdrawal Agreement, which provides that the UK must use primary legislation to give full effect to the Withdrawal Agreement in domestic law.

Those regulations could include state aid and customs procedures for trade from Northern Ireland to Great Britain, and would allow ministers to make regulations inconsistent with the UK’s obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement.

Reference has made to Under s45(4)(g) of the bill, regulations made by the minister on state aid or customs declarations would have legal effect notwithstanding their incompatibility with “any rule of international or domestic law whatsoever”.

The Rule Of Law

The  rule of law  is premised on the principle of overall accountability and fairness.  It includes fair application of the law, the separation of powers, participation in decision-making, legal certainty, avoidance of arbitrariness and procedural and legal transparency.

Inez Brown, President Of The Birmingham Law Society,(pictured) told The Eye Of Media.Com:  ‘Our survey results show that we are in a precarious
position. This position is not helped by the public seeing people in high profile positions abuse the law, which is understandably frustrating and unacceptable.

“Unfortunately, we’ve found that the public believes it is having a negative impact on respect for the law, leaving a lot of work ahead to re-establish the principle of the rule of law in the minds of the British public. It is really important that the public understand that there is no
middle way.

The law must be obeyed regardless of whether you agree with it or not, it is absolute and must not be broken.”
She continued: “There are many reasons for why some people appear to think it is ok to break the law. Public leaks of potential local lockdown measures have created confusion, creating hurdles to jump over when policies are eventually clarified, while the failure to punish those in
the public eye who have broken restrictions could have a ripple effect on the public’s views”

Brown it at pains to stress the importance of people adhering to the law and that the law, no matter how they feel about it. She warns that allowing high-profile figures  to break the law with impunity could be detrimental to the confidence in and respect the public has for the law.

‘The failure to punish those in the public eye who have broken restrictions could have a ripple effect on the public’s views,’  Brown added.

‘It is up to the entire legal community to come together and work to ensure that the legal system and the rule of law is respected across society. The rule of law is one of the foundations upon which society rests and we must do all in our power to ensure it is protected.’

An online debate takes place on December 11 involving a host of legal experts including  Lisa Jordan – regional managing partner of Irwin Mitchell, Greg Lowson – head of office, Pinsent Masons, Tony McDaid and a few others.

This publication plans to publish coverage of the debate after it takes place.

 

Image: birminghamlawsociety.co.uk

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