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Ministers were ‘preparing to climb down and fundamentally reform the Government’s controversial “tax on justice” just six months after it was introduced’, The Independent claimed on its front page.
‘Pressure to address the unpopular charge has increased as peers in the House of Lords condemned the policy as “Ryanair justice”. After debating the motion of regret, peers voted by 132 votes to 100 to oppose the court charges, and Mr Gove will now have to give a formal response.’
Independent, Emily Dugan
Monidipa Fouzder wrote a blow-by-blow account of the the ‘D-day for criminal legal aid – as it happened’ – for the Law Society’s Gazette here.
A former insider at the Legal Aid Agency claimed the tender had been ‘botched’. Apparently, Freddie Hurlston – a bid assessor – contacted the Gazette ‘to make a number of incendiary claims’.
‘It is generally accepted as best practice in public sector procurement that suitably qualified staff are used, that they are properly trained for the job and that a timetable is followed that allows due consideration of the bids,’ Hurlston said. ‘None of these best practice objectives were met.’
Hurlston said many of the staff assessing bids were from a temp agency ‘on around £9.30 an hour and had no knowledge of legal aid or previous experience of public sector procurement’.
‘The LAA did not follow good practice when assessing the bids and, as a consequence, the results may be unfair to some firms.’
At the start of the week www.thejusticegap.com launched #Unlocked15 with Right to Remain and Detention Action on Unlocking Detention. The project is run by Detention Forum, a network of organisations working together to challenge the UK’s use of detention.
Unlocking Detention first ran last year between September and December 2014, to challenge the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ situation that has meant immigration detention has yet to be recognised as one of the gravest human rights issues in the UK.
There are 10 detention centres in the UK, several short-term holding facilities, one centre for detaining families with children, in addition to the many migrants who are held under immigration powers in prisons.
Nearly 30,000 migrants enter detention every year. That figure is rising, with 3,418 migrants detained in detention centres and prisons and a total of 137 people detained for longer than a year as of 30 June 2015. People are detained without a time limit, for months, sometimes even years. It is harmful and expensive. It robs people of their dignity, spirit and lives.
#Unlocked15 is a ‘virtual tour’ of the UK’s immigration detention centres. It uses blog posts, tweets, and photos to raise awareness of detention – and you can follow it all on Twitter with #Unlocked15.
What is the human cost of cutting public spending? asked Mary O’Hara in the New Statesman. O’Hara reported on the tragic death of Mark Wood, months after his disability benefits had been cut because he had been declared ‘fit for work’. When his body was discovered he weighed just 5st 8lbs. His sister said Mark had ‘struggled to live on just £40 a week after his disability and housing benefits were cut’ and his mental health problems were aggravated by stress. ‘At the inquest, the GP told the coroner that, in his view, the loss of benefits was an “accelerating factor” in Mark’s decline and eventual death,’ O’Hara reported.
‘We are now trying to get answers and just keep the pressure up so people know the human cost of the cuts, and that we are becoming a crueller, more backward society in terms of how we treat our most vulnerable people.’
Mark Wood’s sister Cathie
A group of over 300 senior judges and lawyers have today criticised the government’s response to the refugee crisis as ‘deeply inadequate’. The statement, which was published in a full-page advertisement in The Times, described the UK as having ‘lost its way’. It condemns the government’s offer of 20,000 resettlement places for Syrian refugees over five years as ‘too low, too slow and too narrow’. You can see a list of the group’s members and the statement on the Lawyers Refugee Initiative website.
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- JusticeWatch: And so the ‘headlong rush into impetuous reform’ begins - 14th February 2020
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- 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