A glimpse through the legal loophole

Most of us will never get entangled in legal proceedings which is a really good thing! The number of legal hoops we have to jump through in normal life is crazy enough without the uncertainty, if not fear and despair, that would embroil us if we had to endure a judicial hearing.

Even though the legal system is one of the fundamental pillars of our democracy, we are usually content to have it float along unseen in the background. Naturally, we do tend to take a vicarious interest in the perils and pitfalls of those who get on the wrong side of the law and attract media attention. As well as those who become involved in major civil cases in which all manner of ‘laundry’ is aired for public viewing.

I suppose we might take a greater interest if we felt we could influence the legal system but it is an arcane bureaucracy populated by a fraternity (and a comparatively small sorority) who usually do everything in their power to portray it as a closed shop which should not actually be understood by the hoi polloi. They make more money that way.

But some revealing insights emerged this week, coinciding with the start of what might be termed the judicial new year. Hope they had a lovely break!

Tom Bathurst, the Chief Justice of Australia’s largest state, New South Wales, was robustly forthcoming, describing access in very revealing terms. He said: “Delays in court hearings are still too long and are lengthening. Access to justice for middle-income earners remains horrendously expensive.”

Chief Justice Bathurst should be congratulated for his honesty. The rest of us should fear the consequences of his truths.

I grew up with the adage that justice delayed is justice denied. It is, I strongly believe, a universal verity. Which means that a court system which is overloaded is denying many of us one of the most fundamental rights there is. This should really concern us. More frightening is his acknowledgement that justice is really only available to those who are, effectively, wealthy. That is a horrific notion. It ought to give many of us nightmares.

Seriously, think about it. Here is one of the most senior judges in the land admitting that, unless you can afford it, you may not be able to get justice.

And the greatest danger is that we simply accept this situation as the status quo. If we do, we surrender our rights to the most fundamental protection we have as individuals, and as a society.

This is a scenario which begs us to make our voices heard to our parliamentarians and demand better resourcing to our legal system. Our MPs do without nothing. They are on a gravy train that is almost inexcusable. They should not dare infringe our freedoms by starving the legal system of adequate funding to ensure justice for all, regardless of social or financial status.

The way of life we think we are entitled to – and believe we are privileged to enjoy – is not as it seems and we are well on the way to losing it. How much longer do we dare wait before voicing our protest?

 

Acknowledgement: Alex Boswell, The Australian Financial Review, 1 February 2013.