JusticeWatch: No one is above the law

David Cameron Holds A Press ConferenceNo one is above the law
The relentless onslaught against Leigh Day picked up this morning. David Cameron joined fray, ‘ordering ministers to take action to clamp down on lawyers pursuing claims against veterans of the Iraq war’. ‘David Cameron declares war on witch-hunt lawyers,’ was the headline in the Daily Mail.

‘The prime minister is deeply concerned at the large number of spurious claims being made against members of our armed forces. He is absolutely clear that action needs to be taken and has asked the national security council to produce a clear, detailed plan on how we stop former troops facing this torment.’
Number 10

According to the Mail, a ‘key to the crackdown … is putting in place a new time limit for making legal claims’. ‘At the same time, people who have not been resident in the UK for 12 months will not be entitled to legal aid. This would strip away the incentive for lawyers to hunt for cases in Iraq or Afghanistan as there would be no money in it for them,’ it said. Plus ‘so-called no-win no-fee agreements’ faces a complete overhaul, it added.

A spokesman for Leigh Day told the Guardian that the PM should not challenge the principle that ‘no one is above the law. ‘Over the last 12 years, many cases of abuse made against the [Ministry of Defence] during the course of the occupation of Iraq have come to light and been accepted by the government,’ he said. ‘They include the appalling torture and murder of Baha Mousa in 2003. In addition, the government has paid compensation for over 300 other cases relating to abuse and unlawful detention of Iraqis.

‘We have a system in this country that enables people to obtain justice if they have suffered abuse, damage or loss at the hands of anyone. No one is above the law, not us, not the British army and not the government. We cannot imagine that the prime minister is proposing that this should change.’
Leigh Day

Legal aid commission
Labour’s access to justice commission to met for first time, reported the Guardian.

The review, in cooperation with the Fabian Society, is chaired by the shadow justice minister, Lord Bach. Members include Tanni Grey-Thompson; solicitor Raju Bhatt; Julie Bishop, director of the Law Centres Network; Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, ex Law Society president; the former court of appeal judge Sir Henry Brooke; barrister Joanne Cecil; David Gilmore, director of DG Legal and director of LegalVoice; Nick Hanning, Dutton Gregory LLP; Laura Janes, Howard League for Penal Reform; criminal barrister Andrew Keogh; Nicola Mackintosh QC, Mackintosh Law; Carol Storer, Legal Aid Practitioners Group director; and Bill Waddington, Williamsons Solicitors.

‘Beveridge [the Liberal economist] pioneered the welfare state to counteract what he called the five giant evils. The widespread injustice that sees many people unable to enforce basic rights is a 21st-century evil. Just as we all accept the need for public education and healthcare, we must accept the right of every citizen to access justice.’
Lord Falconer

Meanwhile Lord Falconer has now called upon Michael Gove to come before parliament ‘urgently’ to make a statement on the two-tier scheme, according to the Law Society Gazette. ‘You will appreciate that criminal legal aid practitioners are facing considerable uncertainty over the future of their firms and careers, as well as the possibility of significant costs in litigation,’ Falconer wrote. ‘Many will understandably be angry at the way this has been handled and at your department’s failure to keep them – and the public – informed.’

Court costs
Mothballed courts were ‘costing the taxpayer tens of thousands of pounds a month as the Ministry of Justice struggles to sell unwanted buildings’, according to the Times’s Brief newsletter.

‘Whitehall figures reveal that four courts alone cost almost £30,000 a month despite ministers closing them as part of its court estate rationalisation programme instituted in the last government’s austerity drive.’
The Times

Also, Shami Chakrabarti reflected on her 14 years as director of Liberty. She will stand down later in the year. ‘That’s the simple lesson of my years as Liberty director: if we hand over the rights of others, it’s ever harder to keep a grip on our own,’ she wrote.

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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