JusticeWatch: ‘If justice was a tin of beans, how would it be branded?’

‘If justice was a tin of beans…’
The annual pro bono week is to be dropped this year in favour of ‘Justice Week’. Apparently, the purpose of the new idea is to ‘boost the profile of justice’, say the organisers CILEx, the Bar Council and the Law Society.

‘If justice was a tin of beans, how would it be branded? If it were a pair of trainers, would the logo have a swoosh?’ they ask. There is a launch debate (Does justice need a makeover?) chaired by Matthew d’Ancona at CMS. The event promises contributions from journalists, ‘branding and marketing professionals, and those who have worked at the heart of government’ about how justice can be ‘re-framed and re-branded to reflect its real value’.  More of that kind of thing here.

‘Justice has been cast firmly in the spotlight this year. The work of the Secret Barrister, disclosure failings, action over criminal legal aid cuts, and the Worboys decision have all captured the media and public interest. But why has all this attention failed to translate into the political will to increase funding?’
Justice Week organisers

MoJ’s sums ‘don’t add up’
The government’s £15m offer to end the criminal bar’s boycott doesn’t add up, reckons Chancery Lane. According to a report in the Law Society’s Gazette, the MoJ is currently consulting on how the additional £15m should be allocated within the advocates’ graduated fee scheme.

The Law Society reckons out that the headline expenditure figures include tax. ‘The actual value of the proposed package to the profession is dependent on assumptions about case mix, which varies considerably from year to year,’ it says. ‘The Society says the ministry’s impact assessment shows the proposals amounts to £15m, including VAT, based on the 2016-17 case mix information. When applying the 2017-18 data, the proposals amount to £8.6m.’

‘Our initial assessment shows that a disproportionate amount of the additional expenditure will go to QCs, rather than targeting the crisis among junior advocates. We believe that this is the wrong priority to achieve the policy aim of mitigating the current recruitment crisis among both barristers and solicitors.’
The Law Society

Free legal answers
A charity supporting volunteer work by lawyers and law students is to launch a ‘virtual pro bono clinic’ via the internet, reported Legal Futures. LawWorks is to adapt the American Bar Association’s Free Legal Answers software ‘to provide people who cannot afford to pay for legal advice up to four answers to legal questions a year’.

Lawyers are to be ‘vetted by LawWorks’ and ‘may not use the service to identify potential paid-for work’.

Divorce reform
‘Fault-based divorce’ is set to be scrapped as ‘the biggest shake-up of family laws in 50 years seeks to end the “blame game” between couples’, reported Frances Gibb in the Times.

The proposal fulfils a key demand of Family Matters, a campaign begun last year by The Times and the Marriage Foundation urging reform of divorce and other family laws. News of a consultation paper was leaked ‘amid fears in Whitehall that it could run into opposition within some quarters of the Conservative Party and the church’. ‘A Westminster source said that “not everyone will be in favour” and added that “releasing the proposals now could be a way to test the water”,’ the Times reported. ‘The sole legal ground for divorce would remain irretrievable breakdown but couples would no longer have to cite one of the grounds to justify it.’

‘This is a development that must be resoundingly welcomed by all of us who know the current divorce law is a fake fault system, which drives people to commit perjury on a wholesale basis if they are not prepared to wait to divorce for two years or longer’
Sir Paul Coleridge, chairman of the Marriage Foundation

Democratising the system
The legal crowdfunding site CrowdJustice was ‘about more than just raising money’, founder Julia Salasky told the Guardian in a series on ‘disruptors shaking up the legal world’. ‘It’s about democratising the system,’ she said. ‘That might mean getting access to a lawyer, but it also means knowing that other people are using the law, knowing that rights exist in the first place, and raising awareness around the legal issues that can, for better or for worse, cause seismic shifts in society.’

Following its recent launch in the US, CrowdJustice has had some high-profile cases, including Stormy Daniels, who has raised nearly $600,000 (£450,000) to challenge US president Donald Trump. Apparently, her lawyer is crowdfunding to challenge the policy of removing immigrants’ children from them at the border as well.

‘Five years from now we’d love to be a trusted resource and legal destination for consumers – a place where you can not only pay for your case, but where you can also learn about the law and get more transparency over the process. We think we’re just scratching the tip of the iceberg in pursuing our mission to make the law more accessible for everyone.’
Julia Salasky

Farewell to legal trailblazer
Edward Fitzgerald QC paid his respects to Louis Blom-Cooper QC who died this week in the Guardian’s obits. He reminded readers that the lawyer (‘a fearless legal trailblazer and pioneer’) represented Stephen Raymond in the landmark case of Raymond v Honey in the House of Lords which established the right of convicted prisoners to have access to the courts and sue the prison authorities without first seeking the authorities’ permission.

‘This right seems self-evident now,’ Fitzgerald wrote. ‘But it was Louis who first saw the need to address the issue and take it to the highest level. That decision is the foundation of modern prisoners’ rights law and of the principle that the convicted prisoner retains the basic rights of the citizen, despite the fact of their imprisonment.’
Edward Fitzgerald





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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