Faculty-hosted JUSTICE event with Jon Snow and Helena Kennedy hailed a success
It had a lot to live up to, but the third in a series of Faculty of Advocates-hosted JUSTICE Scotland events - a discussion of the law and the media with Jon Snow and Helena Kennedy QC - more than rose to the challenge.
The audience in the Laigh Hall was clearly impressed by the thoughts of the veteran television presenter and the champion of civil liberties and human rights, and the speakers also enjoyed the occasion.
“I think it is great to experience a session in which lawyers reach out beyond the law and talk about wider issues,” remarked Mr Snow.
“The idea that the law is an arid dry discipline has never been my experience - it is absolutely about the world we live in,” said Baroness Kennedy.
“I think this set of talks is showing so powerfully how the law is a living, breathing thing and has to respond to conditions in our world.”
The Beyond Law series is part of Securing JUSTICE at 60, an appeal through which JUSTICE, the law reform and human rights group, hopes to raise £2 million by its 60th anniversary in 2017.
The series opened with a discussion on the tensions between law and war, featuring General Sir Mike Jackson, Chief of the General Staff at the time of the Iraq war, and Lord (Menzies) Campbell of Pittenweem QC, former leader of the Liberal Democrats.
Next, the civil liberties campaigner, Shami Chakrabarti, reflected on her career, in conversation with Derek Ogg QC.
Lord Hodge, the Supreme Court Justice, chairs the events and he spoke of the “great privilege” of having Jon Snow and Helena Kennedy as speakers.
Jon Snow said the job of the journalist was “absolutely fascinating.”
He went on: “I feel very, very fortunate to be allowed to do it. As a trade it has changed immeasurably during the period I have lived through. It used to be that the news had to happen before midday, otherwise you did not get it on (the evening bulletin). Nowadays, people absorb news mainly on their mobile phones…they are absorbing more information than they have ever absorbed.”
Baroness Kennedy, chair of the JUSTICE Council, said that the problem with people obtaining information via their mobile phones was that they got sound bites from the likes of Donald Trump, rather than in-depth coverage.
“People know what is going on, but analysing it and listening to discussion about it is perhaps not taking place in the same way. It is a good thing that people are accessing information, but are they getting real quality in the coverage? There is not enough debate about the meaning of the information they are receiving,” she suggested.
Brexit and a British Bill of Rights were among other hot topics for the speakers.
On Brexit, Mr Snow believed that the campaigns of both sides in the EU referendum had been badly fought, and that the media had covered it badly. But it should never have happened.
“The referendum was a thoroughly bad idea. I don’t think a referendum is the best way of resolving anything. We live in a representative democracy and better that we do things through Parliament, however critical I might be of it, than we consult people about an immensely complicated issue.”
Baroness Kennedy said the complexity of the law surrounding Brexit had never been contemplated in the run-up to the referendum, and “an awful lot of work ” was going to be required in its wake.
“If we are not alert, some of the things we are rather pleased to have got from Europe, will disappear…employment rights, I fear, will be at risk,” she argued.