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30 June 2008 Dear Sirs A tip of the hat to his Lordship A quick search of Wikipedia on Lord Bingham of Cornhill

will give you a potted history of his major achievements to date - Senior Law Lord, Knight of the Garter, former Master of the Rolls and Lord Chief Justice. His is an upholder of the rule of law; an advocate of separating out the judiciary from the other branches of Government; a lecturer on erudite subjects. Indeed, his distinguished legal career is second to none. But it is not the public titles he wears that mark him out: for me it is the sheer brilliance and simplicity of his opinions. To illustrate. All lawyers - from the workaday solicitors (like me) to the most senior judges - have to grapple with the law; its intepretation and its application. This is no mean feat. I spend much of my time advising teachers and social workers and other hard-pressed local government officers about the ever-increasing burden of regulation that they have to abide by. It is not uncommon, after explaining the niceties of some obscure aspect of the law, for a client give me that look of complete incomprehensibility. (It is not - I hope - my delivery.) Take the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. I challenge anyone to sit down with a head teacher who has just excluded a child for bad behaviour and explain that, in the light of Clark v Novacold, the proper comparator for a badly behaved child whose disability may have contributed to that behaviour in some way, is a child who is not badly behaved. Just watch the reaction. To the question: would you exclude a child who was not badly behaved? comes the answer: No, of course not, but so what? Then go on to outline that the school is likely to have treated that child less favourably as a result. Just watch the incredulity spread over their face. Law, they conclude, is so counter-intuitive as to be meaningless. Hold that picture for a moment. Into this legal chaos steps Lord Bingham last Wednesday. In 3 pages of conciseness he has swept away years of nonsense. Simple, understandable, reasonable. Collective sighs of relief throughout the nation followed by a long round of applause. And whilst we are on the subject of schools, take the school uniform case last year. Earnest submission made by learned Counsel in the High Court and Court of Appeal confusing everyone about the implications of the Human Rights Act. Teachers up and down the land scratching their heads and wondering why they are being accused of breaching the human rights of pupils. Bingham, without a hint of pomposity or inappropriateness, strides through the arguments, pushing aside all the hot air. Is it a breach of the HRA that a girl cannot wear a certain dress to school? Bingham's answer: No, of course not. She can go to other schools who will accommodate her religious clothing. Was it an unlawful exclusion of that child because she was asked to go home and change her clothes - and thus contrary to hundreds of pages of

guidance issued by Government on exclusions from school. Bingham again: don't be daft. She was asked to comply with the school uniform rules, which required her to change her clothes, and there is nothing wrong about that. Straight forward, concise, no nonsense. Common sense prevails and life for those ordinary folk who have to make complex legislation work in the practical day-to-day duties of their jobs seems slightly easier. I understand Lord Bingham will be retiring after the Summer. I for one shall miss him - and so will my hard-pressed clients. My guess is it will take some time for the judiciary to find a replacement of his calibre. Nick Graham Assistant Head of Legal Services Oxfordshire County Council