Justice for the people – ‘not just the privileged few’
A Corbyn government would deliver ‘hundreds of new social welfare lawyers’, as well as set up ‘dozens more law centres in areas that have most suffered from Conservative cuts’. The new law centres would be occupied by 200 lawyers specialising in areas such as benefits, debt, housing, employment and immigration, the Mirror reported.
Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon is due to set out the plans for ‘free legal training costing £18m’ plus a £20m fund to create ‘a new network of People’s Law Centres’ at the party’s conference over the weekend. ‘The Tories have deliberately undermined people’s ability to get the legal help they often desperately need,’ he said. ‘That has allowed lousy landlords, bullying bosses, and even the Government itself, to trample on people’s rights for far too long. When people lack the money or the knowledge to enforce their rights, those rights are not worth the paper they are written on. We will put an end to that and ensure that justice serves the people, not just a privileged few.’
‘Labour’s plan is part of a broader blueprint to secure existing law centres and boost their provision with extra staff,’ the Mirror continued. ‘They also want to set up special legal units in the heart of communities, for example in food banks and health clinics.’
Meanwhile the Law Society’s Gazette reported that Suffolk Law Centre has helped more than 2,300 people in its first year and Ealing Law Centre, in London, which celebrated its sixth anniversary last week, handled more than 4,300 cases since its inception.
Thankfully, the legal Twitterati was out in force to offer a helping hand to a public to get to grips with the arcane goings on at this week’s three day week Supreme Court hearing on the lawfulness of the suspension of parliament.
There’s going to be a lot of misinformation over the next few days about the Supreme Court, so as a public service, I’d invite lawyers to share some little-known legal facts. I’ll start:
Each Supreme Court judge enters court to their own Diana Ross song.#SupremeCourtFacts
— The Secret Barrister (@BarristerSecret) September 17, 2019
On the Justice Gap, Nicholas Reed Langen marvelled at the performance of Aidan O’Neill QC, representing a group of around 75 MPs and peers led by SNP MP Joanna Cherry, whose ‘bombastic display of oratory careened from the Battle of Bannockburn to the iconography of the courtroom carpet’.
Barrister Paul Bowen QC wrote in the Law Society’s Gazette about his involvement in the challenge to the government’s decision to slash legal aid for unaccompanied and separated migrant children who need advice to resolve their immigration issues.
According to research carried out by Dr Helen Connolly at the University of Bedfordshire on behalf of The Children’s Society, there could be as many as 15,000 such children are living in the UK. They were in ‘a uniquely vulnerable situation’ with no parents and likely to have been through a traumatising separation from their family and ‘at heightened risk of abuse and exploitation by criminal networks or forced to work in dangerous, exploitative conditions’.
‘Following the government’s ‘hostile environment’ approach to immigration, many have been required to leave the UK despite the fact they would be entitled to remain if they had obtained proper legal advice,’ he continued. ‘They suffer unnecessary fear, anxiety and stress as a result of their precarious situation. And now as we leave the EU, yet more young people will be affected if they don’t have the legal support to secure their status or citizenship by the 2020 deadline.’
‘We can’t let this go on any longer. These children desperately need legal aid – we are all in agreement on this. The government agreed this would happen by the end of 2018; nine months on and the law remains unchanged. Parliament needs to find time to approve this order without further delay.’
Paul Bowen QC, barrister, Brick Court Chambers
Baird takes on the CBA’s ‘troll department’
The CPS was ‘in denial’ over the plummeting number of rape prosecutions and convictions, the victims’ commissioner Vera Baird told The Times. Recent CPS statistics showed that, despite the number of rapes recorded by the police doubling over six years to 58,657 in 2018, charges, prosecutions and convictions in England and Wales have fallen to their lowest levels in more than a decade. Only 3.3 per cent of reported rapes end in a conviction.
The solicitor and founder of the Centre for Women’s Justice, Harriet Wistrich began a judicial review last week over what she argues is a covert change in the CPS’s policy that led to the drop in convictions.
Baird told the journalist Catherine Baksi that the CPS had become ‘more risk-averse/ after the collapse of the prosecution of Liam Allen. ‘There’s a sense of denial and retreating behind the barricades,’ she said. Some defence had accused Baird of ‘scaremongering’. ‘The Criminal Bar Association constantly attacks me about supporting victims,’ she said, adding that she did not engage with the ‘CBA’s troll department’. ‘She emphasises that “there are some perfectly good people in the CBA”, but adds that there is an element of the membership that adopts a “we know everything” approach and thinks that the public is “full of fools”,’ Baksi added.
Meanwhile the CBA’s chair Caroline Goodwin QC wrote in The Times that the public had ‘a right to feel miserably short-changed’. ‘Not about Brexit, but about our justice system,’ she argued. Stats revealing that the scale of the fall in rape prosecutions were ‘disturbing on their own’. ‘But this is symptomatic of a wider disintegration across the criminal justice system,’ she continued. ‘Beleaguered, under attack and on its knees, we are all being let down by system failure.’
Students are offering free legal advice and representation to grieving families ‘because cuts to legal aid mean they cannot afford a solicitor’, reported Metro. A new dedicated inquest team has just been set up through the free law clinic at the University of Bristol. ‘The team of seven students begin work this year with families that face the emotional ordeal of the inquest system with no access to legal representation,’ it continued.
‘Cuts to legal aid mean it is currently harder for families to obtain legal representation for inquests, or the costs of securing legal representation are just too high for the majority. Bereaved families therefore have the added pressure of trying to follow and understand the legal ins and outs of the process while still grieving a loved one. We hope to plug this gap and provide families with advice and support throughout the inquest process.’
Sumayyah Malna, solicitor and lecturer
Apparently, in the last year Bristol students have helped over 275 cases.
- JusticeWatch: LegalVoice to close - 20th March 2020
- JusticeWatch: Worse than LASPO? - 13th March 2020
- JusticeWatch: Keep calm - 6th March 2020
- JusticeWatch: Crumbs from the table - 28th February 2020
- JusticeWatch: Legal aid’s failing safety net - 21st February 2020
- JusticeWatch: And so the ‘headlong rush into impetuous reform’ begins - 14th February 2020
- JusticeWatch: The Brenda agenda - 7th February 2020
- JusticeWatch: Is the Justice System Failing Women? - 31st January 2020
- JusticeWatch: ‘We’ve been waiting for doomsday since the millennium’ - 24th January 2020
- JusticeWatch: ‘It’s payback time…’ - 17th January 2020