Who cares what the Law Panel think? Here are the laws that really need changing

Times Online, January 19, 2007

After careful analysis, I have selected the following as ripe for overhaul:

1. The law that says only barristers can become politicians. I am not sure whether it is a product of the common law or an obscure statute. Granted, it has but the merest bearing on the lives of the man in the Clapham omnibus, but the sooner it is ditched the better. Solicitors have blossomed in recent years, and many can now string more than three sentences together. They have always hid their light under a bushel, but they know just as much as barristers. It is time that they too should be free to lead us into war with a country like Iraq and then say nothing of any note about the inhumane execution of its former leader.

2. The law that entitles antediluvian barristers to ignore the proffered handshakes of solicitors outside court. In the modern world, solicitors wash their hands just as much as barristers. Why is this not recognised?

3. The law that says that poker is game of skill and chance. Or that it’s not. Or that it’s one but not the other, I can’t recall which. Who knows? Yes, the Gutshot case has just been concluded, but it’s bound to be appealed and so we will face another year or so of uncertainty. Given its worldwide popularity it is absurd that the Gaming Act 2005 did not expressly deal with poker.

4. The law that says that when playing in poker tournaments I will always exit in what is quaintly known as "the bubble", in other words, one place away from the money. This is an outrage. If poker is to be allowed to continue across the land, in pubs and clubs, free of the current restrictions (if that is what they are), this has to change.

5. The law that enables unscrupulous lawyers to act for clients on a no win, no fee basis in the full knowledge that their case is founded on a pack of lies. No lawyer will admit this, unless overwhelmed by suicidal tendencies, but it’s the truth. In my former life as one of the country’s most influential last orders lawyers, I encountered, at the bar, all too many of m’learned friends whose concept of fidelity to the truth had been replaced by fidelity to their wallets. They wouldn’t even buy a drink, claiming that under the no win, no fee regulations they required their client’s instructions first.

6. The law that says that barristers get to eat a load of free dinners as part of their training while solicitors have to take part-time shelf-stacking jobs in Asda.

7. The law that says we are not allowed to know what goes on in a jury room. This anachronistic rule, rooted in the common law of centuries past, has meant that juries have been open to corruption since their inception. If a juror decides to acquit because he likes the look of the defendant, we cannot know. If a juror falls asleep, doesn’t care, takes drugs in the jury room or – and yes, this can happen (though you’d never know it) – follows the case attentively throughout, we can have no idea. It’s time that this law was scotched once and for all. But finally:

8. The law that says that the vast majority of lawyers will pay no more heed to the voices of the bright and the influential than those of the dullest and least worthy. This law – that which privileges ennui and apathy over ethics and action – has got to go. Let 2007 be the year that we take an interest.