The end of an era


I don’t often post about matters legal, much prefering to stop writing serious things at the end of the working day but today I need to make an exception.

The House of Lords has been the highest appellate court in England and Wales since around 1400 (when the House of Commons got bored of hearing cases and kicked them upstairs), although it didn’t take on a regular judicial function until the last couple of centuries or so. Safe to say, it’s been around for a while and is generally regarded with equal measures of fondness and exasperation by the legal fraternity depending on whether the latest judgment goes for or against the point you’re trying to make.

Today that ended.

Today was the last day of the Trinity term (meaning that the judges are now on their summer holidays) and when they return on 1 October the Supreme Court Act 2005 will have come into force and the judicial functions of the House of Lords will have been passed to the new ‘Supreme Court’. The Law Lords will be ‘Justices of the Supreme Court’ and the whole shebang will have been moved across the road to a new building in Parliament Square.

It is truly the end of hundreds of years of judicial tradition and you know lawyers don’t like change. However, the passing has not marked unnoticed by the court staff of the House of Lords. Every day the House of Lords’ Judicial Office record an answerphone message which gives details of the cases being heard in the Lords and the judgments which are to be handed down.

Today, if you telephoned 0207 219 3111 you would hear that message relayed over the smoky tones of Frank Sinatra singing “My way”.

As the message ends, Frank leaves off and the amassed staff of the court office sing bravely together:

“the record shows, we took the blows, and did it our way.”

The House of Lords – Hail and Farewell!

[PS News travels fast – I suspect that telephone number may have been called by more lawyers this afternoon than at any point in the previous 600 years.]

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  • mandycharlie 01/08/2009 at 6:44 pm

    Truly the end of an era.

    I do so love the humour.

    I started to listen to the telephone message, laughed, put the phone down, called hubby and then we both listened on speaker phone. It was fabulous.

    Apart from the energy and wit of the phonecall, I especially liked how the secretary held it all together whilst putting her information across.

    Very droll!