The editor of this journal visited Leningrad (as it then was) 30 years ago and it was a surreal experience. A monochrome city seemingly preserved in aspic, the (doubtless carefully vetted) citizens detailed to mind western tourists had but one topic of conversation: the indubitably heroic role of the Red Army during the terrible siege of the second world war.
None of which is relevant to a legal journal. Yet the experience did leap to mind as one contemplated an extraordinary face-off in the Rolls Building: a legal battle between two post-Soviet oligarchs who are fighting out their differences in the British courts. You’d have got long odds on that in 1981.
Well might London position itself as the global centre for dispute resolution, but there is a bitter irony here. As the bill slashing civil legal aid speeds through parliament, leading academic Professor Dame Hazel Genn has highlighted the ‘doublethink’ of the government, which appears to posit one set of rules for the rich and another set for the poor.
She has contrasted the Ministry of Justice’s civil justice policy, which seeks to cut civil legal aid and encourage mediation as an alternative to court, with its desire to promote the use of the courts to international clients to settle business disputes.
British courts for the Russian rich but not the indigenous poor? You don’t need to be a Leninist to wonder about the civil justice of that policy.