The core of the rule of law, in Bingham's version, is that "all persons and authorities within the state, whether public or private, should be bound by and entitled to the benefit of laws publicly and prospectively promulgated and publicly administered in the courts". A bit dry? Consider the implications. Bingham identifies eight of them, all of which he links to John Locke's dictum that "Where-ever law ends, tyranny begins" and to Thomas Paine's declaration that "in free countries, the law ought to be King; and there ought to be no other".
Here are his eight: the law must be accessible and intelligible; disputes must be resolved by application of the law rather than exercise of discretion; the law must apply equally to all; it must protect fundamental human rights; disputes should be resolved without prohibitive cost or inordinate delay; public officials must use power reasonably and not exceed their powers; the system for resolving differences must be fair. Finally, a state must comply with its international law obligations. Now start to tease out what these implications might mean in practice. This is where Bingham's legal principles suddenly lock gears with the real world.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
What is the rule of law?
Martin Kettle has an interesting summary of a recent speech by Lord Bingham on the rule of law, which does not seem to be available online: