JusticeWatch: Selling off the family silver

Selling off the family silver
The Justice Alliance last night called for a moratorium on court closures. Writing for the Law Society’s Gazette, Monidipa Fouzder reported that campaigners ‘congregated opposite the site of the former Bloomsbury County Court last night, holding candles as they watched a slideshow highlighting the fate of some of the 162 magistrates’ and 62 county courts that have closed’.

‘Court closures are denying thousands of people access to justice because they cannot get to their hearings. This means innocent people may be found guilty, and people may be made homeless because they don’t have the opportunity to explain their situation. Over the same period, legal aid has been cut, so that people cannot get the specialist legal help and representation that they need to challenge wrong decisions.’
Justice Alliance

Proof magazine out
The Justice Gap published issue 4 of its print magazine Proof this week. The ‘crime & punishment’ issue is 100 pages and has as twin themes, the prisons crisis and miscarriages of justice. Contributors includes former inspector of prisons Professor Nick Hopkins, ex prison governor John Podmore and the journalists Duncan Campbell and Hardeep Matharu. You can read a full list of contributors here and buy the magazine here.

Lawyer in the news
Sophie Earnshaw, solicitor at Hammersmith & Fulham Law Centre, was this week’s lawyer in the news in the Law Society’s Gazette. She had represented the victim of an acid attack who overturned an attempt to strip her of a disability benefit after being told she was fit for work.

‘This is a particularly horrific and depressing example of the DWP’s decision-making,’ she told the Gazette. ‘As a victim of an acid attack, our client lives in constant pain and trauma which restrict her ability to live a “normal” life. However, she is just one of many who are at the receiving end of a system that is designed to move people into work, regardless of disability, poor health or difficult circumstances.’

‘It is important for these stories to be in the public domain, but it has to be led by the client,’ Earnshaw said. ‘… I felt so angry that she had been put through such a stressful and unnecessary experience. It is due to the extreme facts of this case that it received such publicity, but every day there are similar cases regarding the failure of the social security system to meet the needs of low-income households.’

The Guardian splashed with the government’s decision to ‘renationalise’ the probation service ‘five years after Chris Grayling introduced a widely derided programme of privatisation while justice secretary’. ‘Following years of damning criticism from MPs, inspectorates and former probation officers, the justice secretary, David Gauke, has decided to bring all offender management under the National Probation Service (NPS) by spring 2021,’ the Guardian reported.

Scrapping the failed market and re-unifying probation services is welcome,’ wrote Frances Crook, chief exec of the Howard League for Penal Reform. ‘… David Gauke should be warmly congratulated for listening to what the Howard League and many others have been saying about the catastrophic split and part-privatisation of probation.’

‘At the same time, the devil still lurks within the detail. How services will be delivered locally on the ground remains unclear. The regional structure proposed may prove unwieldy, while clinging to private sector delivery of something like unpaid work seems to fly in the face of repeated failures by companies to deliver on such contracts. Today, however, marks a huge step in the right direction.’
Frances Crook, Howard League

Criminal Bar news
In his weekly message, Chris Henley QC raised the prospect of a further ballot and bringing the courts to a halt. ‘I am increasingly of the view that the genuine emergency state that the entire Criminal Justice System is in, requires all the Courts to close for several days (with a skeleton service continuing to run) to allow an urgent National Criminal Justice Summit to be held,’ he wrote.

Legal aid for inquests
The House of Commons’ justice committee calling on the Lord Chancellor to ensure legal aid for bereaved families in inquests.

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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