Today is the 803rd anniversary of Magna Carta. It means ‘The Great Charter’ and was the embodiment of an agreement between King John and the Barons setting out various personal liberties one of which is summarised in Chapter 39:
“No free man shall be taken or imprisoned, or dispossessed or outlawed or exiled or in any way ruined, nor will we go or send against him except by the lawful judgement of his peers or by the law of the land.”
803 years on, Magna Carta is recognised internationally as a symbol of human rights, and the famous Lord Denning described it as “the greatest constitutional document of all times”.
As lawyers, we strive to protect people’s rights and to seek justice and fairness for all. This week the Bar vowed to urge the Ministry of Justice to take stock and deal with the problems currently faced by everyone in the Criminal Justice System caused by lack of funding and capacity.
In the words of Lord Neuberger, President of the Supreme Court:
‘Where justice is concerned, the principles of Magna Carta are a reference to which we should always return to ensure that we are proceeding in the right direction.’
Today of all days is a timely reminder of how important this agreement was and still is, how it provides the corner stone of a justice system which has often referred to as the envy of the world and how we must continue to protect it.