Byline: Richard LittleJohn
THIS column doesn't often quote Shakespeare, but a line from one of the Bard's lesser works has kept coming back to me over the years. In Henry VI (Part 2), Act 4, Dick the Butcher tells his fellow rebels: 'First thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.'
There's been much debate as to whether this is a back-handed compliment to the legal profession, since the rule of law is seen as a barrier to bloody revolution.
Whatever Shakespeare's intention, the quotation is reported to have been greeted with cheers and laughter by the audience when it was first performed. Lawyers were no more popular then than they are now.
In the second decade of the 21st century, the case for putting lawyers to the sword seems compelling.
I'm not talking about the trusted family solicitor who guides us through estate planning and dabbles in a little light conveyancing; or those poorly rewarded briefs who toil in pursuit of justice in Uxbridge magistrates' court; nor blessed libel practitioners, who have kept this column out of the dock for more than two decades.
The problem is the burgeoning legions of 'yuman rites' parasites, judicial activists and tribunal advocates.
Some of us can't help reaching for our scabbards every time we see the smug visage of Michael Mansfield QC or read the latest pronouncement from the absurdly pompous judges of our shiny new Supreme Court.
There are times when I'd be happy to see the streets running with the blood of those spiv lawyers behind those adverts on daytime TV, which promise the gullible and greedy a fortune in 'comp-en-say-shun' for the most trivial injury.
The adage 'accidents will happen' has been replaced by a modern creed of 'where there's blame, there's a claim'. Just call Blame Direct and it's trebles all round.
No-win, no-fee outfits have created the false impression that there's no cost involved in spinning the wheel in the compensation casino.
The truth is that we all pay for these chancers, through extortionate insurance premiums and higher prices for goods and services, levied to meet the crippling cost of litigation.
Whatever Ken Clarke's other failings, his decision to scrap no-win, no-fee arrangements is the best piece of news to come out of the Coalition.
But it only scratches the surface of the tyranny of the modern legal system. Laws were originally designed to protect us. Increasingly, they are employed to oppress and exploit the paying public.
New Labour was a party of lawyers, by lawyers, for lawyers. Incorporating the European Human Rights Act into British law was the most ruinous, pernicious action ever undertaken by any government.
In addition, we have been subjected to an avalanche of unnecessary legislation, most of it originating in Brussels, which has restrained our freedom and granted inalienable 'rights' to criminals and terrorists. …