Bingham calls for new criminal code

The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Bingham, has called on the Government to introduce a new criminal code to deal with “the present chaotic system of criminal law”.

Speaking at the same Mansion House dinner as Lord Irvine (see above story), Lord Bingham said that criminal law was “incoherent and inconsistent and littered with distinctions which had no basis in reason”.

He added that “irrational distinctions led to injustices”.

He argued that a code would bring clarity and accessibility to the law, in addition to greater certainty.

He said: “Even the most breathless admirer of the common law must regard it as a reproach that after 700 years of judicial decision making our highest tribunal should have been called upon time and again in recent years to consider the mental ingredients of murder, the oldest and most serious of crimes.”

Lord Bingham said the Law Commission had tried “with indifferent success” to achieve what it could on a piecemeal basis.

He added: “But that is a far cry from a comprehensive code containing a statement of general principles, and defences, and offences, and penalties, and procedure and evidence, accessible to every citizen.”