Defending the rule of law

Over 2,000 delegates from 120 countries assembled at the three-day Global Law Summit in London in February to mark 800 years of Magna Carta, the rule of law and the future of global business, whilst lawyers and human rights activists marched from Runnymede to Hampton Court in protest against legal aid cuts.

The “Not the Global Law Summit” march, organised by the Justice Alliance, opposed the “hijacking” of the anniversary into a “monstrous jamboree of corporate law, tax avoidance and global networking”. Several hundred protestors awaited the arrival of the march at Parliament, which held aloft an effigy of the Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling MP, as King John in stocks.


Opening the summit, the Lord Chancellor celebrated Magna Carta as a cornerstone of our legal system and economy: “I am proud that Magna Carta has been one of the UK’s greatest exports: it has inspired and formed the basis of so many legal systems and it is cited and invoked whenever and wherever basic freedoms come under threat.”

“A thriving legal system and respect for the rule of law go hand in hand with economic prosperity. In fact, they are the necessary foundations on which a strong and resilient economy is built,” he said.

The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, focused his opening address on clauses 39 and 40 of Magna Carta, which set out the fundamental principles of the rule of law and access to justice, and their relevance to the summit.

“None of these issues raised by the two principles of the rule of law and access to justice is easy. Some are very uncomfortable not merely to governments but to others such as corporations with immense economic power. But the task requires a commitment from us all, governments, legislatures, lawyers, judges, businesses and citizens.

“There can also be no doubt that some will try to obstruct this commitment to the rule of law. To others it will merely be inconvenient. As to obstruction, our duty is clear; the obstruction must be fought against and removed; obstructions to justice are a denial of justice as Magna Carta teaches,” the Lord Chief Justice warned.

The Bar was represented despite a strong anti-summit current within the profession – the Bar Council was a summit partner, and the Advocacy Training Council and 39 Essex Chambers sponsored the event. Speakers drawn from across the Bar and judiciary scrutinised judicial review and the rule of law against the context of public funding cuts, and others showcased the Bar’s principles of independence and quality of practice.

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