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IN criminal trials, just as a bad character may count against an accused, so a good character may operate in an accused's favour. It was settled by the Court of Appeal in Vye  1 W.L.R. 471 and by the House of Lords in Aziz  A.C. 41 that any accused who possesses a good character becomes thereby entitled to a mandatory direction (known as a “Vye direction”) in the summing-up. The trial judge is required to instruct jurors that the accused's good character is potentially of dual significance when they come to assess both (1) the credibility of an accused who has testified or who has made admissible, exculpatory pre-trial statements and (2) the likelihood of the accused's having committed the offence(s) charged. But matters do not stop there.
As students of the Law of Contract learn to their bemusement, in Fisher v Bell,1 although caught by a member of the constabulary in the most compromising circumstances, the owner of Bell's Music Shop, situate in the handsome Victorian shopping Arcade in the bustling Broadmead area of Bristol, was unsuccessfully prosecuted for offering for sale a flick knife contrary to s.1(1) of the Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act 1959. The statute penalised “any person who manufactures, sells or hires or offers for sale or hire, or lends or gives to any other person” a flick knife. Mr Bell had done all in his power to make a sale. The switchblade had been displayed in his shop window with a label that read, “Ejector knife—4s”. The police officer, who spotted the display and then took the knife away to show to his superintendent, was told by the shopkeeper that he had had other policemen in the shop inquiring about the knives. When the officer returned to tell Mr Bell that he would be prosecuted, the latter simply retorted “Fair enough.”
The disordered state of English law reporting has for long been a favoured theme of writers on the common law. The volume of printed case law, the casual nature of its publication and its variable quality have all been frequently criticized. If earlier centuries had been largely content to express intermittent displeasure, in the nineteenth century concrete solutions were found, the obvious product of this bid to achieve a rational system of law reporting being the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting and its authoritative series of Law Reports. But if ultimately reform of the system was only realized once the profession seized the initiative in the middle of the nineteenth century, it would be an error to suppose that schemes for reform had not been conceived in earlier times. After all, only by a miracle could anything as blatantly haphazard as the quality of law reporting have escaped the strictures of major reformers.
The 14 essays that make up this 2003 volume are written by leading international scholars to provide an authoritative survey of the state of comparative legal studies. Representing such varied disciplines as the law, political science, sociology, history and anthropology, the contributors review the intellectual traditions that have evolved within the discipline of comparative legal studies, explore the strengths and failings of the various methodologies that comparatists adopt and, significantly, explore the directions that the subject is likely to take in the future. No previous work had examined so comprehensively the philosophical and methodological foundations of comparative law. This is quite simply a book with which anyone embarking on comparative legal studies will have to engage.
‘[L]’on peut comparer sans craindre d'être injuste.' Safe in that knowledge, the contributors to this book met in a closed seminar in Downing College, Cambridge between 26 and 30 July 2000 to debate comparative legal studies, almost exactly a century to the day after the Société française de législation comparée had held its landmark Congress in Paris. The Cambridge Conference was, of course, intended to mark the centenary of the Paris Congress. To this end, fifteen scholars from around the globe, representing widely diverse strands of comparative scholarship, were invited to speak to comparative legal studies at the millennium within their specialist fields and then, drawing freely upon their research, to reflect upon fruitful lines of inquiry for the future. The present volume comprises papers presented and discussed on that occasion in Cambridge. The Cambridge Conference may not have reaped the incidental benefit of a universal exhibition which, in 1900, coincided with the Paris Congress. But like its Paris predecessor, finding itself poised on the threshold of a new century inevitably lent a symbolic edge to the enterprise. In broad imitation of its Parisian forebear, the Cambridge Conference was intended to provide a tour d'horizon of the current state of the comparative endeavour in the specific context of legal studies.
The impact exerted by the Paris Congress on the subsequent development of the subject is underscored by Konrad Zweigert and Hein Kötz on the opening page of their well-known textbook:
Comparative law as we know it started in Paris in 1900 […].[…] The science of comparative law, or at any rate its method, was greatly advanced by the occurrence of this Congress, and the views expressed at it have led to a wealth of productive research in this branch of legal study, young though it is.
This paper follows upon the author’s earlier paper in the preceding issue of the Journal which drew attention to the Court of Appeal’s growing practice of delivering composite judgments. It examines some of the wider issues cast up when courts ring the textual changes, adopting different permutations, and considers the somewhat tendentious matter of ‘judicial style’, a subject dear to some comparatists’ hearts. It explores the knotty question, glossed over even by many writers on precedent: what exactly is the virtue of the concurring judgment? It also considers how the quality of judgments may be affected by collaborative composition in a comparative context, taking in what little comparative evidence there is to inform the debate. It is futile to pretend that this paper offers final answers to any of these questions, for they raise issues of disconcerting complexity. Yet, to pass them over in silence would be scandalous.