On Thursday 17 January I attended a lecture of the new Regius Professor at the University of Glasgow, James Chalmers. His inaugural* lecture, the beginning of a programme of events for the Tercentenary of the Regius Chair, was entitled Resorting To Crime (PDF). Do have a look at the text and its “copious” (and entertaining) footnotes. A fascinating historical and biographical tour of Professor Chalmers’ predecessors developed into an acknowledgement of an increasing move away from generalisation in the profession and, of course, legal academics. Knowing more and more about less and less, and all that. Hence the resort to crime in the lecture’s title, crime being a key research area of the new Regius Professor.
Of the many thoughts provoked by the lecture, one related to the sheer volume of criminal offences created in the UK and specifically in Scotland of the two years selected in the research undertaken by Professor Chalmers and his colleague Dr. Fiona Leverick, the following table can be extracted.
Total number of offences created in England and Scotland, 97-98 and 10-11
Geographical applicability 1997-1998 2010-2011 England 1235 608 Scotland (including both Westminster and Holyrood legislation) 1238 1222
614 more offences in Scotland as compared to the rest of the UK in 2010/11. What should we make of this? That Scots need some more criminal regulation than the rest of the UK? That Scots legislators are over-zealous? None of the above? The statistics are fascinating in and of themselves. When chatting to James afterwards, I postulated there might be an overlap with my previous blog Harming Scots Law – i.e. give people the ability to legislate within a defined remit and there is a fair chance they will tinker away. I mentioned I would send him a link to the piece – hopefully I have gone one better by publicising our discussion and linking to the piece on this open blog forum.
One other extract of the lecture deserves a special mention. In Swedish.
Varje abstrakt bild av världen är lika omöjlig som ritningen till en storm.
In English, this is rendered as “every abstract picture of the world is as impossible as the blueprint of a storm.” That quote comes from the Nobel Prize winning poet Tomas Tranströmer. It reminded me of another piece on my blog, where I link to a quote about the futility of writing about music and how that is as useful as dancing about architecture. Is writing about the amorphous mass that is the law as futile? I shall step away from the keyboard as I contemplate that.
*It was not actually James’s inaugural lecture. Do have a look at the text of his lecture to learn about his very successful first lecture in the Boyd Orr Building.