Be careful what you wish for

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THEY say that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. This is certainly true in my case when it comes to legal matters, and I would never wish to give the impression that I have any legal expertise.

However, I am qualified to comment as ‘the man on the Clapham Omnibus’ – an ordinary person as distinct from an expert.

I recently read the judgment in a high-profile court case and was surprised that the defendant’s religious beliefs featured so prominently.

In a modern society should a person’s religion even be mentioned in a court case, let alone be a factor in justifying a suspended sentence?

In some respects I felt the judgment read like a Dickensian novel. I believe it was wrong to emphasise the person’s work at the Freedom Church in the judgment, especially as powerful members of our community are also members of the same church.

The fact that the person was a member of the Freedom Church was totally irrelevant in terms of the case before the court and there appears to have been a conscious decision to be specific rather than simply state ‘a church’. Furthermore, the judgment implies that a person who believes in a god is somehow of better character than an atheist, and a person who does charity work is more likely to be good and honest than someone who does not. This is 2017, not 1817!

The States will shortly debate the separation of powers between the legislature and the judiciary by removing of the Bailiff as speaker of the local parliament.

While I agree with the principle, I do wonder if the solution will actually be a retrograde step. It is therefore vitally important that before any change is implemented a full understanding of the proposed alternative is available so an informed decision can be made.

One solution may be to seek an independent chair, perhaps a former politician with both ministerial and Scrutiny experience who has gained significant chairing skills – for example – from chairing one of the largest retail employers.

Strangely enough, I would be the only person to fit that requirement and my approach from the speaker’s chair would be very different to the approach of the current Bailiff.

If the opportunity arose I would certainly apply for the position and if this disclosure does not consolidate the Bailiff’s current position, then nothing will! Be careful what you wish for.

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