The True Meaning of Honour: with Particular Regard to Legal Sense
If we do not covet honour we are tired of life and its challenges.
1. First thoughts
Not one of the three supernatural gifts, yet the supreme quality in life, namely an honourable man or woman. Honour and chivalry on the champ d’honneur – to give honour where it is due – to be of a family of honour – to bring honour to your name and progeny. Honour is concealed in Shakespeare’s phrase “if it be a sin to covet honour I am the worst offending soul of all”, Henry V before Agincourt. As the Norman French words tell us in every English Court Room “Honi soit qui mal y pense” (shame upon him who thinks evil). That shame is directly contradicted and illuminated by the Courts’ decisions always made by Honourable Justices and filled with honour. There can be no justice without honour and honourable Judges. A very demanding plea.
2. Honour in modern society and Courts
In the modern world we pay lip service to honour. To be truly honourable requires sacrifice and putting oneself out. To have honour is not to have an easy life. In the Criminal Court room it means to defend the honour of the Advocates, the Witness, the Defendants and yes the trial court itself. Anything short of this brings dishonour down on Justice and Justice by her very nature may never be dishonourable. Do not permit men and especially women to be dragged through the mud in Court. That is axiomatic to the judicial process. The guilt or virtue of the party, Civil or Criminal, will always come through. It is not victory at all costs but the Judgement of the Court with honour. Not everything should be spelled out. The Court should protect the innocent party: man or woman, from vexatious questioning. Nothing is achieved by that process, save the black arts. If the Court will not protect the innocent it is down to Crown Counsel not to offer no evidence (his or her decision alone) but to proceed by shielding that innocent victim from troublesome, unpleasant and obnoxious questioning. There is always a proper way of handling matters in this spirit – we are in the English Courts. Always uphold the Judgement of the Court I say.
3. Justice and Honour in our Family Courts
Honour is closely linked to Justice in the Family Courts. These Courts are sometimes too willing to accept at face value the status quo and not enquire directly in to what lies beneath the surface. Judges are not encouraged to be Judges save at the pinnacle of the pyramid, where they possess the character, power and authority to do Justice without fear of reproach and appeal. In Family cases: Private law and Public law, one parents’ honour may need to be powerfully vindicated. This requires fairness but you cannot satisfy everyone or the strongest invariably. The Court must recognise the virtuous party and exonerate and empower that parent where proper, however unpopular that may make the Court. It is the essence of judicial honour to uphold the weaker voice, defend that parent’s rights and restore their familial role and integrity. Without this Court inspired intervention Justice lacks honour and becomes corrupted by inaction and vacillation. The Court should be fully supported and instigated in its direct action by the Advocate for this browbeaten and least known party. Advocate and Judge should effectively interact to bring about the honourable result – the only one acceptable to Justice. The bundle of papers should not be sheltered behind and used to filibuster. Cases should be short, questioning brief and to the point by the Advocates’ conduct and choice and Judgements equally succinct.
The days of spinning out cases are over – let us go back to Sir Norman Birkett QC, Lord Chief Justice Goddard and the Honourable Sir Cecil Havers and the pre-war English Courts. A case can be understood quickly. A lot of the paper work in the bundles is superfluous as some Judges would agree. Procedural Rules should be made simple. A specialist District Judge of seniority and acute experience should knock a Private law case on the head very sharply and with brevity in terms of Court time. Public law cases should be decided by specialist District Judges or Designated Family Circuit Judges. There should be more feedback to and by the Judges with private forums where their thinking, reasoning and consequences of their decisions may be re-examined. The education of Judges is foremost in the Family field of law. Nothing can be more honourable than the parent and child bond – Judges should be encouraged to face this proposition and the vital importance and balance of each case regardless of the weight of the Local Authority evidence.
Yes there are “no hope” cases which should be dealt with firmly. Yet not every case is as it may appear. In a small minority of cases honour is lurking behind the tree of a parent and the Advocate should be the worst offender of all and make himself enemy of all in the cause of honour. Consensus breeds stagnation, complacency and suffocation – not good for children’s law and practice. There will always be another side to the coin.
4. Religion and Honour
The greatest honour is to follow Christ Himself – an honour vouchsafed to each one of us however young or old. He will lead us into the Palace of Justice of Honour herself on earth, namely His love in our hearts, whether we believe it or not. Such is His great sense of honour He will save the whole world, living and dead. The Saints are the personification of honour in their historical characters and they were all moulded by Christ Himself in His image. For our example these virtuous men have been honoured by Holy Mother Church. Their honour is exemplary and without doubt.
Honour maketh man as manners maketh man. Without manner you have no honour in your soul. It is the hidden life of the soul that counts. That is where Henry V coveted honour, so Shakespeare tells us. You covet in your soul and heart and the heart’s desire for honour is driven by the soul’s same desire and zeal. Honour takes you to the brink and beyond – it will never leave you guessing and unsupported. With honour you will be a soldier of Christ and the officers in that grande armēe de Christ have the greatest honour on earth. Who is l’officier de la plus haute classe sur la terre dans cette armēe ? Ask Christ Himself – He will not be slow to reply.