Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Our Trademark Rule[.]

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Our Trademark Rule[.]

Article excerpt

Byline: COLUMNIST KATE THICK

OUR trademark rule of law and respect for the individual are more precarious than we think.

Spot the rectitude in Justice Secretary Michael Gove's latest wave of court closures or in the rise of fines and court fees which put access to justice beyond the reach of many. More than 50 magistrates in England and Wales have resigned in protest. Parliament's justice select committee is about to launch an inquiry.

Changes to the criminal justice system, which came into effect in April, mean that when defendants appear in court to submit their plea it is no longer solely a consideration of innocence or guilt. It has become an economic risk calculation.

Courts are now expected to not only be self-financing but to turn a profit. There was always the elite end of the law but is money, as with so much else in our world, in danger of leading justice by the nose? The fat end of the wedge: the government recently won a freedom of information tribunal to keep secret the details of a military deal to supply the Saudi Arabian national guard.

Equally worrying, austerity is accompanied by authoritarianism; the Lobbying Act passed last year restricts the right of charities to campaign on political issues and human rights. The UK is not alone in this as in the last three years over 60 countries have passed laws that inhibit non-governmental groups.

Feeling uncomfortable? We live in a world of contradictions.

Elsewhere, happily, justice is being served: BP, after a long legal wrangle in America, has to pay a record PS13.2bn in reparation for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and the carting off of Fifa grandees shows the rich and powerful are not beyond the arm of the law.

The UK is a laundering HQ par excellence, according to a recent Radio 4 programme; some of the world's most corrupt politicians and oligarchs are involved in laundering huge sums through London.

Governments and multinational companies are extorting $50bn annually out of Africa. Under the auspices of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, all the G20 nations have agreed to target tax avoidance by the world's largest corporations; excellent then that the UK has recently set up the International Corruption Unit, part of the National Crime Agency, to target some of the most corrupt figures across the world. …

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