Sunday, 29 July 2012

Visiting Court and Watching Cases

I went to the Supreme Court to watch a very interesting case on vicarious liability. Vicarious liability is a doctrine that I studied at Uni, and was one of my very favourite undergraduate topics. I think I read more on that topic than I did for almost anything else. Of course, when I opened my Tort Final paper, there wasn’t a single question on it. Typical.

You might be like me, and find vicarious liability fascinating. But most people are either not fascinated by it, or don’t really know what it is. Which is fine.

What gets me is that some of those people visited the UKSC on the day in question, popped into Court 2, sat for about 5 minutes, and then ran off again.

I’m not surprised they found it boring. Counsel quoting from cases they’ve never heard of on a principle they don’t care about in the middle of a legal hearing based on facts they don’t know is not a rough-and-tumble Garrow’s Law spectacle.

What I am surprised by is that they thought the Supreme Court would be engrossing theatre. It is usually Counsel quoting from cases you’ve never heard of on a principle you don’t care about in the middle of a legal hearing based on facts you don’t know. If you didn’t know that, now you do. If you didn’t know it, and visited the UKSC, the TV screens showing the happenings of the court rooms should let you know.

The idea of seeing justice being done is a great one. But, unless you’re a person interested by any particular legal idea, my advice is this. Go to a criminal court. The stories will (generally) be better. The questions more factual and more tangible. You’ll find it hard to not form a view. When you go, ask to see the start of something, because that way you’ll hear the facts[1]. If you go to a magistrates court, you may well see a full trial, because they are shorter. (I saw a man defend himself by saying he had no intention of going to Disneyland Paris to hurt Donald Duck).  

I’m not trying to put you off going to court. Going to the wrong court will put you off going to court. Leave the dry stuff to those who know why it’s not dry.

[1] You really can, and should, ask any member of court staff “What’s on that’s good?” and they’ll let you know. 

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