MAGNA CARTA 1215 TO NORTH KOREA 2015: ADVANCING THE IDEAL OF LEGAL RESTRAINTS ON GOVERNMENTAL POWER
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On the 800th anniversary of the reluctant acceptance of a charter of rights and obligations by King John of England in 1215, many books have been written, essays published and lectures given, examining the relevance of this step in the long constitutional history of England (if any) and for the world of today.Some commentators, have doubted any relevance.Lord [Jonathan] Sumption, a judge of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, and an expert in mediaeval English history, has rejected any significance in what sounds to Australian ears as a somewhat condescending remark.‘High minded tosh’, he called it. Geoffrey Robertson QC, of Doughty Street Chambers, London, via Epping in Sydney, expressed somewhat similar views, but more politely. Michael Beloff QC, in this journal, has traced every case of the past century in which Magna Carta had been cited to reach a conclusion that its actual contemporary relevance was small.Other writers and lecturers were willing to find a greater materiality in the Charter for the world of today.
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