Solicitors back Taylor on 'knee-jerk' laws claim

CRIMINAL lawyers have come out in support of Lord Chief Justice Taylor after his attack on the Home Office's “barrage” of criminal justice legislation.

Anthony Burton, senior partner at London-based Simon Muirhead Burton, mirrored Lord Taylor's sentiments when he said: “We reject the knee- jerk piecemeal draconian changes brought about by a party political panic.”

He said he believed the UK was facing a separation of power problem with “persistent executive interference with judicial discretion”.

Mark Haslam, partner at Magrath & Co in London, also backed Lord Taylor. He said: “The Home Office reforms are gradually taking away the court's ability to distinguish between sentences.

“I also believe that the sentence given should be the sentence served, except in cases of good behaviour. The prospect of remission is the only thing that keeps the lid on most prisons.”

In his speech 'Continuity and change in the criminal law', given last week at King's College London, Lord Taylor accused the Government of introducing a torrent of ill conceived, hasty and contradictory legislation that was in danger of undermining the public confidence in the justice system.

He flatly rejected Home Secretary Michael Howard's proposals for tougher sentences for violent and hardened criminals as ineffective. He said they might cause violent offenders who know they face a life sentence to murder their victim and only witness.

He pointed out that it was the Court of Appeal that had to deal with the inconsistencies and miscarriages of justice brought about as a result of hasty reforms.