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Ashes and Sparks
Essays On Law and Justice


  • Date Published: February 2011
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107000957

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About the Authors
  • As a practising barrister, the Rt. Hon. Lord Justice Sedley wrote widely on legal and non-legal matters, and continued to do so after becoming a judge in 1992. This anthology contains classic articles, previously unpublished essays and lecture transcripts. To each, he has added reflections on what has transpired since or an explanation of the British legal and political context that originally prompted it. Covering the history, engineering and architecture of the justice system, their common theme relates to the author's experiences as a barrister and judge, most notably in relation to the constitutional changes which have emerged in the last twenty years in the United Kingdom.

    • Makes classic articles and essays available once more, with additional postscripts written during 2010
    • Analyses and comments on developments of continuing interest and concern in the UK justice system
    • Situates events and developments in a context both of history and of principle, thus contributing to a coherent modern philosophy of law and justice
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'This excellent book gathers lectures and articles which Stephen Sedley has composed over about thirty years, as advocate, trial judge and lord justice. Readers will be impressed, as I have been, by his learning and by the great sagacity of his judgments on many of the prime legal issues of our time.' Tom Bingham (1933–2010), former Senior Law Lord

    'This is a great book, with powerful insights in law and justice offered in a hugely enjoyable collection of witty essays. The book is of obvious interest to legal theorists and practitioners, but it is also astonishingly successful in bringing significant legal issues, even quite complicated ones, within easy reach of general public discussion.' Amartya Sen, Nobel Laureate, 1998

    'Stephen Sedley writes with such calm cadence and laid-back humour that it is only at the end of each chapter that you realise how persuasively radical his reflections are. Whichever way you look at it - judging this book by its cover, or covering this book by a judge - you are offered delight and enlightenment from beginning to end.' Albie Sachs, former judge, Constitutional Court of South Africa

    'Ashes and Sparks grapples with some of the fundamental justice issues facing modern nations. Justice Sedley's thoughtful - and sometimes provocative - comments on the evolution of the justice system in the United Kingdom, the role of Parliament and the courts, and the constitutional role of law in the search for social and individual justice, inform us and challenge us to think more deeply on these matters, so vital to our society.' Rt. Hon. Beverley McLachlin, Chief Justice of Canada

    'The best book I've read so far this year … You could have no interest in the law and read [this] book for pure intellectual delight, for the exquisite, finely balanced prose, the prickly humor, the knack of artful quotation and an astonishing historical grasp. A novelist could be jealous.' Ian McEwan, The New York Times

    'Brilliant, compassionate, engaged with society. These essays are a reflection of a remarkable mind. Astonishing that the originality and open-mindedness were not stamped out by the years of judicial toil. In and out of court, always a good read.' Sir Michael Kirby, Justice of the High Court of Australia, 1996–2009

    'A marvellous collection of essays, steering through profound questions of society, law and justice, which engages the reader in a lively and learned discussion of many themes. Stephen Sedley writes of judging and justice with the deep knowledge that comes from long experience of the law and rich experience of life. Many more sparks than ashes …' Jean-Paul Costa, President, European Court of Human Rights

    'In this remarkable and capacious volume, Stephen Sedley sifts the law with wit, wisdom and lucidity. As he brings his incisive intelligence and deep historical knowledge to the tensions between human rights and common law, to our competing rights and responsibilities, to the dysfunctions of the democratic system and the workings of justice, the very meaning of judiciousness takes on a new force. This is a book that anyone interested in our polity will savour.' Lisa Appignanesi, President, English PEN

    'What unites all these pieces is the sheer quality of writing.' Counsel

    'Instructive and entertaining in equal measure.' Socialist Lawyer

    '… an educational and enlightening read … the thrust of this collection of essays is the studied observations of an exceptional mind, not only about the legal systems in the UK and elsewhere, but perhaps more importantly about the human condition. I will read it again.' Donald E. Shelton, Critical Criminology

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2011
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107000957
    • length: 446 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 162 x 25 mm
    • weight: 0.83kg
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. History:
    1. Victors' justice
    2. Above it all
    3. Reading their rights
    4. From victim to suspect
    5. Farewell sovereignty
    6. No law at all
    7. The sound of silence
    8. The spark in the ashes
    9. Wringing out the fault
    10. Everything and nothing
    11. Skulls and crossbones
    Part II. Judgery:
    12. Justice miscarried
    13. The Guildford Four
    14. Declining the brief
    15. Big lawyers and little lawyers
    16. Parliament, government, courts
    17. Judges in lodgings
    18. Mice peeping out of oakum
    19. Justice in Chile
    20. Never do anything for the first time
    21. Rarely pure and never simple
    22. Law and plumbing
    23. The laws of documents
    Part III. Justice:
    24. The right to know
    25. The moral economy of judicial review
    26. Policy and law
    27. Responsibility and the law
    28. The Crown in its own courts
    29. Human rights - who needs them?
    30. Fundamental values - but which?
    31. Overcoming pragmatism
    32. Sex, libels and video-surveillance
    33. This beats me
    34. Public inquiries: a cure or a disease?
    35. Human rights: a 21st century agenda
    36. Are human rights universal, and does it matter?
    37. Bringing rights home: time to start a family?
    38. The three wise monkeys visit the marketplace of ideas.

  • Author

    Stephen Sedley, Judiciary of England and Wales
    The Rt. Hon. Lord Justice Sedley is a judge of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales. Since being called to the Bar in 1964, he has been involved in high-profile cases and inquiries including the death of Blair Peach, the Bridgewater Four and Stefan Kiszko appeals and the contempt hearing against Kenneth Baker, then Home Secretary. He became a QC in 1983 and was appointed a High Court judge in 1992, serving in the Queen's Bench Division. In 1999 he was appointed to the Court of Appeal as a Lord Justice of Appeal. He is currently an honorary Professor of Law at Warwick University and the University of Wales at Cardiff, and the Judicial Visitor at University College London. His many lectures include the 1995 Paul Sieghart Memorial Lecture, the 1996 Radcliffe Lectures (with Lord Nolan), the 1998 Hamlyn Lectures, the 2005 Holdsworth Lecture and the 2006 Blackstone Lecture. He chaired the Judicial Studies Board's working party on the Human Rights Act 1998 and has, since 1999, been President of the British Institute of Human Rights.

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