Not a job I’d envy!

There was a motion proposed last week by the Magistrate’s Association in England and Wales, to end the swearing of oaths in court on the bible and other holy books. Although the motion was defeated, there was a sentence that caught my eye:

Had the motion been passed, it would probably have needed the approval of parliament to bring the change about.

The previous version of the story mentioned it in this way:

The practice is so old that it is not clear whether it is simply custom or if Parliament would have to change it.

And

Oaths sworn on the Bible are old enough for the Magistrates’ Association to be unsure whether they are mere custom and practice or whether they were laid down by law.

So, whatever the decision in Cardiff, it might need the approval of Parliament to bring the change about.

 I found this quite unusual: changes to the law were being proposed, but the people proposing the changes didn’t actually know how they would go about changing it! Even in the final version of the story, the most informative that the writer could be about how the law would have been changed if the vote had approved it, was saying it would “probably” be done via Parliament!

I’m just glad I wasn’t the law librarian being asked to research when the Bible and holy book oaths had first been used in the courts, and under which powers they had been created!

Warning: may include Scots law material. Somewhere.

Ah, FindLaw UK, a shiny new website, for general public access to law, and solicitors. Sounds like a good thing, and in principle, it is.

But I have to go back to a traditional moan: Scots law differs in many areas from English/Welsh law. The Findlaw UK website almost exclusively refers to E/W law, but doesn’t actually state this. There are a few references to where there are differences, but these can be deep in the articles e.g the core section on divorce procedure refers entirely to E/W law, with only a related article alongside outlining that there are different procedures in different jurisdictions.

The Personal Injury section refers you to the website of Community Legal Advice, which offers “free, confidential and independent legal advice for resident of England and Wales”.

Buying and Selling Property is purely about E/W law, I can’t find even a hint of the Scottish differences. Bankruptcy? Alcohol and Crime? Dispute Resolution Law? Criminal Law? Litigation? All English/Welsh, with links to national agencies for those topics.

Only the Law and Government section discusses in any depth the jurisdictional issues, including a Devolution section, so they do know that there are differences. But there’s no link from this core information to the subject guidance sections. The few references to Scots law are also often lifted from DirectGov, who refer to the Scottish Government as the Scottish Executive, but FindLaw UK’s own material refer to it as the Scottish Government: using the two terms is confusing for those who don’t know the difference between the old and new terms for the body.

Of course, a lot of these areas of law I don’t regularly work in, so can’t be sure how accurate the site is in those, but the ones I do know about seem to generally have no signing or flagging of the jurisdiction of the content, which, if you’re aiming a site at the general public, is not a great plan.

So FindLaw UK, if you’re going to market yourself as being able to provide “legal information, access to quality solicitors and a community to help you make the best legal decisions”, then please, remember to actually do that. Nobody can make their best legal decision if the information they’re basing it on relates to the law of another country.