Unclear regulations could be behind public lawbreaking, lawyers say

A number of the West Midlands’/UK’s leading lawyers have admitted that the decline in the UK public’s respect towards the law has been caused by a ‘lack of logic’ behind restrictions implemented by the Government in connection with COVID-19.

At a panel debate hosted by Birmingham Law Society, which included Geoffrey Cox QC MP, Lisa Jordan, Tony McDaid, Joe Wilson, Nick Green, Greg Lowson and Inez Brown, the respect for the law came into question following the results from a recent survey of 1,000 members of the public.

The survey found that almost one third (32.5%) expressed feelings that it is okay to break the law. Lisa Jordan, Regional Managing Director at Irwin Mitchell, commented that while the UK is largely a law-abiding nation, many have struggled to understand the logic behind some of the Government’s recent decisions.

She said: “By and large we have followed the rules. But when you take forcing pubs to close an hour early, as an example, people ask ‘what is the logic?’ The Government has a responsibility to ensure there is clarity behind the laws. If they do, then people will follow them.”

Geoffrey Cox QC MP, agreed, saying the Government has a responsibility to accurately communicate the law, otherwise it could be brought into disrepute. He said: “With the ever-extending legal control over our lives, it is very important that it is accurately reflected in the messaging. The law [can be brought] into disrepute when there is confusion and lack of clarity as to what it is.”

Birmingham Law Society’s survey results also showed how 87.6% agreed that lawbreaking by those in high profile positions has a negative impact on respect for the rule of law.

Tony McDaid, CEO of No5 Chambers, added: “I think the survey would’ve produced different results if those in government, parliament and other high-profile positions weren’t seen to break the law. It is easy to see why young people, for example, see ‘one rule for them and another for me’, which has been problematic.”

Among the findings of the survey, a further two-thirds (68.7%) believe that respect for the law has decreased in the last five years, while 96.5% said it is important that society’s leaders obey the law.

Inez Brown, President for the Birmingham Law Society, concluded: “Our survey has opened up a much-needed debate about the role our leaders and the country’s lawyers have to play in respecting the law. Ensuring that regulations are clear and transparent is fundamental to earning public respect for new legislation and as lawyers, we must come together to ensure our message is heard.”

Birmingham Law Society’s panel debate is available to watch on-demand. For more information, visit: https://birminghamlawsociety.co.uk/debate-2020/.