I don’t want the law to be dumbed down, just made more manageable.
As a budding news hack, my second favourite show as a kid was Newsround (behind Byker Grove, obviously).
Given just 10 minutes to bring young people up to speed, John Craven and his successors had an unerring ability to explain complex issues in a simple but not patronising way. The news itself was relatively impenetrable, but Newsround was manageable. It’s probably solely responsible for my A grade at general studies A-level.
You will probably have seen something similar this week from The Honourable Mr Justice Peter Jackson, in a judgment which has been widely shared across social media.
Jackson sets out from the start that the judgment is as short as possible so that the mother and the older children involved can understand it.
You can have a read here.
It’s a remarkable judgment in many ways. Jackson takes a difficult subject matter, which involves the father being in prison, and comes to a sensible and rational conclusion.
It is a judgment that John Craven himself would be proud of
But most praiseworthy of all must be the manner in which it is written. Jackson has masterfully set out the issues in a simple way, but without watering down the content. It doesn’t treat those involved as stupid, but does acknowledge they need the case explained if they are to truly understand what has been decided.
It is a judgment that John Craven himself would be proud of.
My only disappointment is how rarely this seems to be the case. As a non-lawyer it has taken me years to acclimatise to the language and style of judgments – and even now I can take hours to get my head round these things.
The continued – and total unjustified – use of Latin in judgments has long been a bugbear of mine, and you will often need a dictionary alongside you as judges seem to revel in showing off their vocabulary.
This is not a call to dumb down the law. It’s not a suggestion to bring emojis into judgments. But Jackson has shown it is possible to make the law relevant to those it affects. Even when children are not involved, I would love more of his colleagues to follow suit.
John Hyde is Gazette deputy news editor