Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 27 March 2014


There are not many things I would be prepared to die in a ditch for, but, preserving one common legal system in our country (by which I mean for these purposes England and Wales) is a principle for which I would be prepared to take one for the team.

I completely accept that Britain is multi-racial and I can see that has brought huge benefits, not least to our cuisine, music and sporting culture. I believe strongly that everybody should have the right to pursue their own religion in every country.

But I draw the line completely at separate legal systems for different communities – in the same country.

I was therefore troubled last weekend to read reports of the "Law Chiefs" making way for Sharia law in the UK. Sharia law is of course Islamic law, which some Muslims (a tiny minority) would like to introduce into the UK.

 On further investigation, the law chiefs turned out to be the Law Society, the timid and frequently disappointing body that regulates solicitors. They had issued guidance to some of their practitioners who advise people on Sharia law in this country.  I decided to investigate further:

Sharia law in the UK does not form part of the justice system. The Islamic community in some cities have set up Sharia Councils which operate on a private basis, but they do not have powers to enforce their decisions.  People may voluntary choose to live by Sharia principles and to use Sharia councils to settle civil and family disputes. They may not be used to settle criminal cases. The decisions made by Sharia Councils are only binding if both parties consent to the arbitration, and they cannot overrule the legal decisions of UK courts.

People may only adhere to the judgements of Sharia councils where their rulings do not contravene
English laws. If any of their decisions or recommendations are illegal or contrary to national law,
national law prevails. This is all very satisfactory and must be maintained.

In a diverse and pluralistic society, it is crucial that we maintain this framework. A common legal system is perhaps the single most important way to underpin coherence in any country. In a free country, it remains open to any person to campaign for the introduction of their own law. But it is not going to happen, and those who feel belligerent about this still have the precious right to live elsewhere.

posted by Gary @ 08:02