On Retirement: A Final Blog from Julian Freeland

January 02, 2018

Practice News

On Retirement: A Final Blog from Julian Freeland

As I leave the practice of the law, I am very aware that I must have forgotten at least 90% of whatever I knew.  But some things seem to stick for ever.

One of the subjects in my first year of university (now over 50 years ago) was Roman law.  When complaints are raised today about fixed penalty notices and how unjust they are, my memory drags up the joys of studying Justinian and the laws of ancient Rome.

Take two examples.  If a man should murder his father, then the penalty was simple.  He was sewn up in a leather bag together with a dog, a snake and various other animals and thrown into the Tiber.  Case disposed of.

For causing injury to others, then there were fixed penalties for the offender, the amount depending on whether the aggrieved was a free man or a slave.  But for an “insult”, the fine was 25 asses.  An as was a trivial sum.  The value of the penalty was much reduced by inflation.

But the trivial nature of the penalty afforded amusement to those with a sense of the absurd.  There was one Roman (name forgotten) who walked around the market place casually slapping random free men in the face, and then immediately after the incident handing them 25 asses.  Who could complain?  Certainly not the injured party.  He had already received all the compensation to which he was entitled.

There is a certain beauty in the simplicity of fixed penalties; at least it seems that way until you are yourself on the receiving end.

So I shall probably cling on to my memories of Justinian (and Gaius) long after I have forgotten everything of any use. Luckily I leave HMG with the knowledge that there are plenty of much younger lawyers here and that our clients and their problems will remain in good and safe hands.

posted by Julian Freeland | January 02 2018