Democracy vs Ochlochracy

Simpsons Angry Mob

The Government’s hideous Rwanda asylum plan has been ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court.

Under the plan, people who applied for asylum in the Uk after arriving via an irregular route would be deported to Rwanda, and have their claim processed there. Not everyone realised that successful applicants would be granted asylum in Rwanda.

My view is that the policy was wrong on the most fundamental level. We take far fewer refugees than we should, if they were dispersed proportionally throughout the world. And there are reasons why people choose particular countries for their asylum claim and it’s often to do with prior links to that country. It’s absurd that a person who already has family living in the UK, and who applies to the UK government for asylum, should be sent elsewhere.

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A Response to ‘Cultural Relativism’

The World Cup starts today. The festivities have been overshadowed by the fact that host-country Qatar has an appalling human rights record. It abuses its migrant workers and homosexuality is criminalised.

In a controversial press conference, FIFA President Gianni Infantino defended Qatar and accused critics of hypocrisy.

Who are we in the West to lecture others on what values are appropriate for their societies? The universality (or not) of human rights and other values is a topic that I have often considered on this blog. It’s also an issue I had the opportunity to study recently as part of my LLM at the University of Law. Below is an excerpt from an assessment essay I wrote for the International Human Rights Law module. (It was graded ‘as a ’Distinction’ don’t ya know!)

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Call to the Bar

Both readers of this blog will have noticed that posting has slowed in recent months. Only three additions in all of 2022! A decade ago I would easily post that many in a week.

The reason for this has been a major distraction: I’ve been studying for a Bar Practice LLM. This year I conceived of myself as living in a movie study montage, with a singular focus on the work required for upcoming seminars. Resisting the urge to distract myself with a 2,000 word blog-rant about free speech or the Bill of Rights (et cetera) has been difficult but necessary. And I haven’t read a novel in months.

But the sacrifice paid off. I was called to the Bar at Middle Temple in July. Here’s the proof:

Of course, the demands on my time have not been alleviated. I’m now doing advocacy work and seeking pupillage, so logging my thoughts on current affairs is still a lower priority, and the paucity of posts will be prolonged.

Reversing the Ratchet

Busy times for me at the moment, but this is an aide memoir / place-holder for some later posts.

Its now undeniable that the current British Government is damaging our democracy. Several measures either proposed or enacted that strengthen the power of the executive, reduce accountability and/or threaten free speech.

  • The intent to scrap the Human Rights Act
  • The measures in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 which allow the suppression of protests which cause a ‘nuisance’
  • Eroding the independence of the Electoral Commission
  • Insisting on the regressive ‘First Past The Post’ method for elections that previously used something more proportional.
  • The Online Safety Bill, which would impose impossible moderation standards onto social media companies and hand too much power to the Government to suppress speech it doesn’t like
  • Measures to constrain Judicial Review
  • New plans to curb the rights of workers to strike
  • The undermining of ministerial standards and accountability, as demonstrated by the way the Prime Minister ignored the findings of a report that the Home Secretary bullied civil servants
  • The Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Act 2021 allows the security services to authorise criminal conduct in new, unaccountable ways.

These are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. There are probably more.

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Time to Ditch ‘Word Count’ in Favour of Bytes

There’s an amusing detail in the judgment of Mr Justice Peel in WC v HC (Financial Remedies Agreements) [2022] EWFC 22:

The parties’ s25 statements were limited to 20 pages of narrative.  Para 5.2 of PD27A mandates that narrative statements, among other documents, shall be typed in “a font no smaller than 12 point and with 1½ or double spacing”. H complied. W’s statement purported to comply in that it consisted of 20 pages, but because it used smaller font and spacing it was, in fact, about 27 pages compressed within the 20 page limit provided for by me.

— Paragraph 1(i)

This is a classic tactic that has been used by students the world over since the dawn of the word processing age. When I did it as a school boy, the aim was to increase the margins and font spacing so that one had to write less. Here, the tactic was deployed in order to write more.

Since we routinely use computers for everything, its time we abandoned the analogue concept of ‘pages’ as the standard for submissions. Why not simply specify a word count?

Or better still, bytes. There are 1,498 bytes of text in this blog post, for example. A 20 page document typeset at 12 point, 1.5 lines amounts to 45 to 50 Kb of text. Imposing a rule based on data would kill off any typesetting trickery, but also incentivise plain language — because drafters would not be penalised for using three shorter words in preference to one longer word.

(Hat-tip to Gordon Exall and the superb Civil Litigation Brief blog)