JusticeWatch: More JR ‘ping pong’ to come

ping pongNeither passionate nor humane
A couple fighting the enforced adoption of their three-year-old son could be forgiven for thinking they were trapped in a system that was ‘neither compassionate nor even humane’, said Sir James Munby, president of the family division of the high court.

The child had been removed from his parents by Swindon borough council and placed in temporary foster care. According to the Guardian’s Amelia Hill, for the past 10 months the couple had been struggling to get the legal aid ‘without which, said Sir James Munby, they would be left in the “unthinkable” situation of facing the local authority’s application without proper representation’.

‘The complexity of the process involved in obtaining legal aid for [the boy’s] parents is, quite manifestly, beyond their capabilities. This state of affairs is … both unprincipled and unconscionable.’
Sir James Munby

Ivan the not so terrible
There was a profile of  Sir Ivan Lawrence in the Spectator this week. The criminal barrister and former MP discussed ‘the Krays, Dennis Nilsen – and Chris Grayling’.

Lawrence (‘a working-class, Jewish grammar-school boy from Brighton’) was Conservative MP for 23 years, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee and ‘an influential figure on the Eurosceptic wing of the party’. ‘It must have been a shock to the present Conservative leadership, therefore, to witness the 77-year-old Sir Ivan in full rhetorical flight last March, supporting an unprecedented walkout by criminal barristers,’ wrote Jenny McCartney, who met the barrister at his Pump Court chambers. ‘To cheers, the lifelong Tory declared: “I am ashamed of this government” over swingeing cuts to legal aid and barristers’ fees enacted by Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary.’

‘Sir Ivan vowed then “to stop them destroying the criminal justice system which my party has held so dear”. What led to this state of affairs? “The government had no fear of us, because we never took industrial action — it just carried on and on cutting fees. But then we did take action, and it backed off.”’
Jenny McCartney

Dear Ministry of Justice
A bereaved mother wrote to the MoJ challenging Chris Grayling’s reasoning for having no legal aid for families to cover representation at inquests.

‘You present a version of the inquest coated with parma violets, butterscotch and cream soda. Devoid of context. You suggest that families put their trust in the coroner. Yes. Maybe. But they should also be aware that other interested parties (such as the NHS, the prison service, police, local authority) may well turn up mob-handed with barristers and the like. Determined to close down questions and limit the investigatory process.’
Sara Ryan

More ping-pong
The Lord Chancellor is back in the House of Commons next week with his controversial plans to reform judicial review. The Criminal Justice and Courts Bill ‘will return to the commons for what is termed as ‘ping pong’ after the House of Lords blocked its progress last month’.


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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