“No freeman shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights and possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land”.
The old barons forced the rule of law upon King John – their protection against the arbitrariness of the monarch. Eight centuries on, Prime Minister Cameron vowed with patriotic energy to “restore the reputation” of the charter’s values with a new British Bill of Rights.
I’m not sure I would say that the reputation of the Carta’s values has been tainted (although the Home Office has been trying very hard to discredit its ideals), but it is certainly the case that the reputation of those duty-bound to uphold the ‘justice for all’ principle lies in tatters. Today’s barons don’t like the hassle of due process when it is a lot easier to get what you want by might.
Cameron’s British Bill of Rights – aimed at supplanting the Human Rights Act – may do away with our right to be free from torture and thus give the State the power to chastise us with iron rods and scorpions, but it will proudly assert the supremacy of the UK courts over Strasbourg. Nothing has yet transpired as to what that Bill will contain, but I can see that many are sceptical about it – after all, who can trust the protections of a Bill of Rights drafted by this generation of lawmakers?
“We will sell to no man, we will not deny or defer to any man either Justice or Right”
Yet, as we know only to well, the Magna Carta celebrants are in the business of doing exactly the opposite.