Posted by: secretperson | July 4, 2008

Equality Under the Law

Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips has suggested aspects of Sharia law could be used in Britain.

Financial and marital disputes could be solved using Sharia, he suggested, following on from similar suggestions from Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.

As far as I can see, it is perfectly possible, and entirely legal, to settle a marital or financial dispute without resort to the law courts. This might be through discussion, mediation through a friend, using your religious principles or whatever. That is the business of the individuals concerned. If two muslims decide to solve their dispute as it would be under Sharia, fair enough.

But this should not be recognised as law. It should be classed as a case where the law is not invloved. If one, or both parties feels the need to recourse to the law of the land, it must be English common law. It is a fundamental principle of law that all are equal under the law. People must be able to expect the same treatment from the courts regardless of their religious or ethnic background.

This mutli-culturalist approach will lead to segregation, clashes between communities when laws overlap, and the undemocratic impositio of bad law on the basis of ‘community tradition’. Those born into different religious or ethnic groups, particularly vulnerable women, often lack de facto protection, out of the criminal systems fear of causing offence. For this to be made de jure would be a big mistake.

There is nothing stopping consenting parties having their disputes mediated as they wish, along religious lines or any other. But the fundamental principles of common law mist hold true:

The law is made by the Queen in Parliament, i.e. with democratic consent.
The law is decided on by an independent judiciary, and the law makers are subject to that same law.
The law is enforce, with consent, by a civilian police force.
All people are equal under the law.
No one shall be imprisoned without the lawful judgement of their peers.

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