St. Thomas More is the patron saint of lawyers, perhaps because of his good turn of phrase but also perhaps simply because he was Chancellor. Lawyers need a patron saint because for some reason they have a poor reputation. I was one once so I know. But unfortunately we need them, usually when we are not at our best so we don’t always have good memories of our time spent with them (and the expense of course.) If we are to have a fair system of justice though we have to have someone to help defend us as the law courts are difficult territory. There is also the problem that the working of the law does not always match justice. Faced with magistrates and their clerks, prosecuting barristers, judges in their wigs and gowns, and the particular language and the fact that those in the know seem totally at ease, and as a defendant you can feel the world slipping away from you. Since even before the 18th and 19th centuries this has been so. For the poor, courts were not where you expected to find balanced justice. If you and your family were starving, having been evicted from enclosed land, and you had poached a rabbit, you were headed for the gallows or Australia, not sure which you fancied less at the time. Today things should be better, but if you remove legal aid, and close the local magistrates courts where most people are dealt with, and have so reduced the staff that cases take so long the witnesses and even the defendant have almost forgotten what has happened, then justice is slipping. If you then introduce ‘swift’ courts to make up for removing staff, the danger is that the necessary safeguards we expect slip too. This never bothers us as we never expect to be in front of the magistrates, but when our son or grandson is picked up in a club for holding a decent amount of drugs to ‘help out his mates’, it all becomes very real. We can pray to St. Thomas More of course, but that doesn’t always do it at the time.