Earlier this week I was waiting outside my child’s class, ready to be told what amazing offspring I had produced by the teacher, when I spotted a small poster on the classroom door stating three ‘British values’. One of those values was the 'rule of law'. At first, it made me smile. But then, I thought, do the children who sit behind that door really know what this important principle actually means?
Justice Week, which draws to a close today, began with a panel discussion entitled 'Does "justice" need a makeover? How can we rebrand our treasured national asset?'. Rachel Krys, co-director of campaign group End Violence Against Women, suggested 'we need a little bit more than a re-frame of justice. We need a bigger refresh'. She's right.
If we want the public to care about justice, to care about its future, we need to make sure the younger generation grows up knowing precisely what justice is and, most importantly, what it means for them. Throw phrases such as 'the rule of law' at them and they'll stare at you blankly. Tell them they could be arrested if they say bad things about someone on social media and that a person called a 'criminal defence solicitor' will help to make sure they don't go to prison - that, they'll understand.
Avoiding phrases like 'the rule of law' ties in with an important point raised by an attendee at the panel discussion about the terminology we use when we talk about justice. When we talk about crimes, for instance, we can't say 'victims' because it pre-judges the outcome of the case. Legal commentator and Gazette columnist Joshua Rozenberg higlighted the fact that people sometimes find it difficult to tell the difference between 'victim' and 'complainant'.
Does 'justice' need a makeover? Yes. How can we rebrand our treasured national asset? Let's start by talking about it in a way that the public actually understands.