In the United Kingdom the tragedy of the death of Stephen Lawrence, a death for which responsibility has never been adequately apportioned by the Justice System, is one of a series of watershed moments in any analysis of what a justice system should do to safeguard the rule of law among communities with diverse heritages, traditions and language. The underlying problem to be solved in that example was racial discrimination. The Macpherson report into the tragedy coined the term ‘institutional racism’ as a description of the behaviour of part of the police service.
Sir William Macpherson quoted the late Sir Henry Brooke in that report. Sir Henry has very sadly and only recently died. He was a former Chairman of the Law Commission in England and Wales (the independent body charged with law reform) and a judge of our Court of Appeal. He was the first judge to be responsible for equal treatment training for the judiciary in England and Wales. In a well known lecture given by him, the 1993 Kapila lecture, which was itself devoted to the theme of this conference, Sir Henry quoted the philosopher Philo from the 1st century AD: “When a judge tries a case he must remember that he is himself on trial”. At the later Grotius Colloquium in London in March 2000 he got further into his stride and cited The Arthashastra which was described by him as a Hindu political treatise written over 2000 years ago: “Judges shall discharge their duties objectively and impartially so that they may earn the trust and affection of the people”.