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A mistake no lawyer should have made

The lessons of a case from 1917 are as relevant now as they were 100 years ago, writes David Hewitt

31 January 2017

During the Great War, men who didn’t want to fight often went before special tribunals, asking to be made exempt from service. Some of those cases ended up in the Central Tribunal, but although that was the final authority on matters of this kind, it didn’t always do justice by the men concerned.

The Central Tribunal sat in Westminster and was chaired by the fourth Marquess of Salisbury, and I have seen a case in which it made a mistake. The result was that a man was put in harm’s way who shouldn’t have been.

Lord Salisbury held his judicial post between March 1916 and October 1917, and he was both preceded and succeeded by other peers of the realm. A distinguished statesman, he had been a soldier and a member of the cabinet. He was not, however, a lawyer.

In fact, only three of the Westminster tribunal’s 1...

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