The following is an excerpt of an article by Michael Psaras. This features in our fifth print issue, available now.

Find out how to get your own copy of the issue here.

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Earlier this year on BBC Radio 4, reminding us that it can be serious at times, lectures by Lord Sumption were aired as a part of the annual Reith Lectures.

Lord Sumption was educated at Eton and Oxford, graduating with a first in History in 1970. Clearly, he was fortunate enough to receive a rigorous education, which is hard to find in our education system today, even in our public schools. Seen as an extremely clever individual, he eventually began a legal career and was elevated to the Supreme Court.

In the first lecture out of the five, the expansion of the law – what Lord Sumption terms ‘Law’s Expanding Empire’ – is analysed and some of its serious implications are raised, such as the power judges now have. This article shall focus on this lecture.

Law is first described as part of a larger system of public decision making, with the rest being ‘politics’ – ministers, legislators, the media, pressure groups, the wider electorate and so on. Until the nineteenth century most human interactions were governed by custom and convention, with law dealing with a narrow range of problems like property, enforcement of contracts and protections of people’s lives, liberty and their property against arbitrary injury. According to Lord Sumption, law now ‘penetrates every corner of human life’.

Examples are shown, such as that in May 2010, more than 700 criminal offences were created – three quarters of them by government regulation. The mass expansion of law in the previous century into our lives is shown by the great growth in the legal profession of this country. In 1911 there was one solicitor in England for every 3000 inhabitants. Just over a century later there are about one in 400, a sevenfold increase.

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Read the rest of this article in the print issue, information on which can be found HERE.

Photo by Dun.Can on Flickr.