Justice Watch: LASPO review ‘an abdication of responsibility’

The inevitable disappointment
The long awaited LASPO review was finally published at the end of last week. ‘Not that anyone in the demoralised world of legal aid was actually looking forward to a report that the government was expected (but failed) to deliver within five years of the 2013 cuts coming in,’ I wrote in the New Law Journal. ‘Probably the best that beleaguered legal aid lawyers could have hoped for in these dark times would be a sense of mild disappointment. And so it has come to pass… .’

‘To call this review disappointing would be an understatement; it is an abdication of responsibility,’ continued Geoffrey Bindman, also for NLJ.

‘The Legal Aid and Advice Act is about to reach its 70th anniversary. Looking back at its genesis tells us much about what is wrong today. In 1949 a vigorous government had the determination to make a serious challenge to the age-old imbalance between rich and poor in the legal system. It had a convincing blueprint in the report of the Rushcliffe committee of 1945. Today we have a weak government with other pressing concerns and the LASPO review has been left without effective political leadership. Instead of the bold revitalisation of what was and should be a source of national pride, the review offers a few minor cosmetic changes and vague promises of pie in the sky.’
Geoffrey Bindman

More here

‘I will worker harder’
A High Court judge has compared lawyers who work  pro bono to ‘the tragic Stakhanovite horse’ Boxer in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, reported Monidipa Fouzder writing for the Law Society’s Gazette.

Mr Justice Williams made the comparison in ME and MP, in which the father appealed a 2018 judgment which concluded that his 12-year-old son should live with the mother and have no direct contact with him. Williams said the ‘lengthy and comprehensive’ 45-page judgment addressed issues ‘of the utmost seriousness in the private law arena’.

Counsel for the father, whose appeal was allowed in part, and the mother, who is deaf, acted pro bono.

‘Up and down the country, counsel, solicitors and legal executives fill the gaping holes in the fabric of legal aid in private law cases because of their commitment to the delivery of justice,’ said Williams. ‘Without such public-spirited lawyers how would those such as the father and mother in this case navigate the process and present their cases? How judges manage to deliver justice to the parties and an appropriate judgment for the child without such assistance in cases like this begs the question. It is a blight on the current legal aid system that cases such as this do not attract public funding.

‘So far removed from the stereotyped “fat-cat”, the legal profession in cases such as this are more akin to Boxer in George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” always telling themselves “I will work harder”.’
Mr Justice Williams

‘He acted like a toddler’
Female barristers were quitting ‘legal practice in droves because of a failure to stop bullying by judges’, according to an article in The Times. ‘One anonymous woman barrister told the Criminal Bar Association: “I don’t think I have ever been shouted at like I was by that judge … completely unacceptable. He acted like a toddler.”’

Search of Lady Hale’s replacement begins
‘Less than two years after Lady Hale became the first woman president of the Supreme Court, the UK’s highest court has begun searching for her successor,’ reported the Law Society’s Gazete. ‘Baroness Hale of Richmond (Brenda Marjorie Hale), who took up her presidential post in September 2017, will retire next January.’ Apparently, the court says it wants applications from the ‘widest range’ of eligible candidates, ‘including those who are not currently full-time judges, and particularly those who will increase the diversity of the court’. If you are interested, the president is currently paid £229,592.

About Jon Robins

Jon is a journalist and has written about the law and justice for the national papers and specialist press for more than 15 years. Jon is a visiting journalism lecturer at Winchester University, a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln and patron of Hackney Community Law Centre. He has won the Bar Council’s legal reporter of the year award twice (2015 and 2005). Jon is editor and co-founder of LegalVoice

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