JusticeWatch: Behold the ‘majesty’ of our courts…

Neglected dumps
Court users have been reassured that a video hearings pilot will uphold ‘the majesty‘ of our courts. Apparently, the pilot kicks off with tax appeals this spring.

HM Courts & Tribunals Service said it was ‘working closely with the judiciary to ensure the majesty of a physical courtroom will be upheld’. This prompted some cynicism on the part of lawyers.

The lawyer later posted the above picture of the majestic Aldershot magistrates courts.

‘We are spending £1bn on transforming and modernising the justice system. Video hearings have the potential to improve access to justice and speed up cases,’ reckoned justice minister Lucy Frazer. ‘This pilot will provide important information – together with an increasing body of evidence from other countries – to drive innovation to make the wider system quicker, smarter and much more user-friendly.’

Former magistrate Penelope Gibbs, director of Transform Justice, told the Gazette that research on video hearings for defendants and immigration detainees suggests that being on video leads to worse outcomes, including more imprisonment and a greater number of decisions to deny bail.

High risk
A legal challenge has been launched in an attempt to force the government to acknowledge that the security company G4S is ‘high risk’ in the wake of a number of catastrophic failings.

These failings, many of which were highlighted in Panorama’s documentary last year, Undercover: Britain’s Immigration Secrets, include the maltreatment of detainees by staff, a widespread culture of disrespect and the falsification of incident reports in order to cover up their conduct (here). Panorama’s revelations about Brook House IRC were the latest in a long line of allegations involving G4S in the running of custodial facilities.

Under government policy, a ‘strategic supplier’ can be designated ‘high risk’ if there is evidence of repeated concerns regarding underperformance and mismanagement in the delivery of the services it is contracted to provide.

Leigh Day is acting on behalf of Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID). They are applying to the court for a protective costs order to limit the costs it may incur. You cread about this on the Justice Gap here.

Iraqi claims factory
According to the Daily Telegraph, defence secretary Gavin Williamson was ‘repulsed’ by an Iraqi refugee’s admission that he helped arrange hundreds of fake abuse claims against British soldiers. ‘Whistleblower’ Basim Al-Sadoon told The Sun that he had an office in Basra that (he claimed) handled made-up claims from locals against the British Army to win compensation from the MoD.

Al-Sadoon apparently described the practice as a ‘racket’ in an interview. ‘It was like a claims factory and it didn’t matter if the claims were true or false,’ he told The Sun. Gavin Williamson said that ‘hundreds of brave and innocent British heroes suffered great pain at the hands of this sick get-rich-quick scam’. ’I’m repulsed by these vile revelations… and those responsible should be held to account,’ he added.

The Sun reported that he was employed by a British-based middleman (Mazin Younis) who was contracted by Leigh Day and Public Interest Lawyers. Leigh Day denied any wrongdoing and insisted they had no knowledge of the behaviour outlined by Al-Sadoon, nor encouraged it.

Tweet of the week

An unbalanced justice system
‘I could never have imagined that almost ten years after his death I’d still be fighting for justice for my brother,’ wrote Marcia Rigg, sister of Sean Rigg who died after collapsing while in police custody in south London in August 2008.

Sean apparently became unwell and suddenly collapsed and died in police custody in the summer of 2008, his sister wrote for INQUEST’s blog. ‘Practically naked wearing only speedos and handcuffs, he lay on the cold concrete floor at the entrance of Brixton custody suite,’ she continued. ‘Sean died on camera inside a cramped caged holding cell, surrounded by, and at the feet of, five to six police officers.’

‘In the decade that I’ve fought for answers, I have faced an endlessly lengthy and unbalanced justice system,’ Marcia Rigg continued. ‘And despite a string of reviews, inquiries, set of recommendations calling for changes to police conduct, a damning inquest jury verdict, and a mass media campaign, no officer or institution has been held accountable for Sean’s death. This has led me and many others to feel that there is no real justice or penalty for state wrongdoing. This destroys public trust and fuels resentment among Black communities who feel targeted and harshly treated. My story is just one of many. Our family has experienced unimaginable trauma, disappointment and exhaustion.’

She wrote about how seven weeks after Sean’s death the family was given ‘an unrecognisable and badly decomposed body for burial’.

‘To top things off, when we attempted to get legal representation for the inquest hearing, we faced an intrusive legal aid means testing process, which resulted in our family being asked to contribute £21,000. We were being asked to pay this sum to find out how Sean died.I hugely benefitted from legal representation during the inquest as I came up against a team of five state lawyers. These included lawyers representing the police, ambulance and other health services. Rather than helping me understand the reason Sean died, I felt that they were more interested in protecting their interests.’
Marcia Rigg

You can read the blog and support INQUEST here.



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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