Keep off the drinks says judge

The chair of the Law Commission called on the Bar to back a campaign to make law reform easier.

Mr Justice Brooke said the need to improve the quality of laws must top the all-party political agenda.

“I have not yet seen any evidence of parliamentary procedures which are robust enough to ensure that the quality of our law is indeed steadily improved, year by year, and that we do not slip back into the recent dark ages,” he said.

“I hope the Bar, which has always supported our work, will now throw all its energies into the search for a solution.”

But Brooke said there was a “rosy hue on the horizon” and he was confident that five commission reports would be implemented by the end of the current parliamentary session.

“There is a new procedure in the House of Lords which shows distinct signs of promise, and the House of Commons twice debated better ways to implement our reports in the last fortnight of June.”

He said the recent past had been “wintry” and the four years since 1989 a disaster. The backlog of reports waiting to hit the statute books is now 36.

He said it was unlikely reforms would be included in the Government's programme of bills.

“By their very nature, they win few votes. Ministers do not appear on television to say they are reforming the laws relating to chancel repair liability or the delegation of trustees' powers.”

A senior judge told new recruits to the bench to “pay a visit” before they went into court and warned them: “Don't drink at lunch times”.

Mr Justice Tucker said judges should be sober, comfortable, affable and firm.

Listing his top tips for first-timers, he said: “It only needs a whiff of sherry or a slight stumble on a word for suspicions to grow.”

He added that new soldiers were told to “have a good breakfast and a good rear” before drills. The same was true of judges who needed to be comfortable, he said.

In a speech at the Bar Council conference, entitled 'The dos and don'ts of your first day on the bench', he said judges should always check the maximum sentence before jailing someone.

“It's very embarrassing if you give two years over the odds.”

Never repeat your summing up otherwise you will only get it wrong, he added.