How cool is necrophilia, Judge?

On Wednesday, the Lord Chief Justice (the appropriately named, Lord Judge) bemoaned the continuing move towards overly prescriptive legislation, saying:

“There is a guideline for judges passing sentence on those rather odd people who have sexual intercourse with a corpse. There’s a different possible approach depending on whether it’s with the same corpse or a different corpse. It’s all to do with the idea that you can legislate for just about every possibility.”

On the same day, I was at the AGM of the Civil Mediation Council, hearing about more regulation of mediators. Why?

I am in favour of regulation when there is some harm that might occur in the absence of those regulations. But I remain to be convinced that mediators have the capacity to do great harm.

Going to mediation is an entirely voluntary process. The costs are low – very low, in comparison with the costs of paying lawyers to take a case to trial. And settlement is an entirely voluntary decision by the parties involved. Mediation may not always lead to a settlement, but I have yet to hear any evidence to suggest that there is a problem to be regulated away. So why not leave well alone? At least until a specific problem has been identified.

The Lord Chief Justice’s example of overly prescriptive regulation reminded me of a line from a rock musical I saw 35 years ago: “Necrophilia is no longer cool.” I have worked in the regulatory arena for long enough to know that regulation hasn’t lost its “coolth” yet. But, as I have written here before, we do need to think carefully about how we regulate – and how much.