NI: Law Society NI event hears lawyers are the ‘guardians of freedom of speech’
Lawyers are the “guardians of freedom of speech”, members of the legal profession heard at an event hosted in Belfast to mark European Lawyers Day 2015.
Over 120 members of the legal profession and invited guests heard The Hon Mr Justice Colton speak in Law Society House at the event organised by the Law Society of Northern Ireland in association with the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE).
Mr Justice Colton reflected on the balance between the right to freedom of speech and the right not to be insulted or discriminated against, as well as the freedom of citizens to speak to their lawyers without fear of interference or surveillance.
He even included a reference to outspoken billionaire Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in the United States.
Mr Justice Colton ended his speech: “Freedom of speech probably has its strongest legal support in American Constitutional Jurisprudence, where the courts have come closest to endorsing Voltaire’s sentiment – ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it’.
“No doubt that is why only in the USA could a candidate like Donald Trump be leading the race for nomination as Republican candidate for the presidency – the party whose forebearers helped draft the American Constitution based on the principles of pluralism and democracy – but that is a story for another day.”
John Guerin, president of the Law Society of Northern Ireland, said after the event: “Freedom of speech is at the heart of individual liberty and democracy. Yet, in many parts of the world, it is under attack.
“Increasingly citizens, including lawyers, are regularly attacked, censored, detained, prosecuted or incarcerated for defending the right to freedom of speech.
“As guardians of freedom of speech, it is important that on World Human Rights Day we recognise their invaluable contribution to society.”