JusticeWatch: #TakeYourMPtoWork

The Young Legal Aid Lawyers and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Legal Aid are running a joint campaign: #TakeYourMPtoWork. They say: We’re organising MPs to visit law centres and legal advice clinics during June to see first-hand why comprehensive early legal advice is so vital. MPs will meet with legal aid lawyers and in many cases shadow an early legal advice session.’

Copy and paste the tweet for your MP:

‘Hi xxxx, @YLALawyers and @APPGLegalAid are running a campaign where MPs will shadow legal aid lawyers on the frontline to see why early legal advice is vital. Join MPs from across the political spectrum who are taking part. Reply to this tweet to find out more. #TakeYourMPtoWork.’

Death of an idea
The LASPO cuts represented ‘the death of an idea: the right of everyone to be treated fairly by the state no matter what their income’, I wrote in a new series for Byline Times. Earlier this week the chancellor Philip Hammond brushed aside evidence of the ‘systematic immiseration of millions’ in our country by the UN’s expert on poverty, as did his cabinet colleague, work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd who last week dismissed the report as ‘barely believable’.

It was striking (but barely noted) that the UN rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Philip Alston identified the ‘dramatic rolling back’ of legal aid as one of the causes of our country’s ‘systematic’ impoverishment.

‘The Alston report is to be welcomed,’ I wrote. ‘It reinforces the connection between legal aid and the welfare state.’ The Australian human rights lawyer talked of ‘the glue that has held British society together since the Second World War’ which has been ‘deliberately removed and replaced with a harsh and uncaring ethos’.

‘As a result, many poor people are unable to effectively claim and enforce their rights, have lost access to critical support, and some have even reportedly lost custody of their children. Lack of access to legal aid also exacerbates extreme poverty, since justiciable problems that could have been resolved with legal representation go unaddressed.’
Philip Alston, UN rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights



Noses in the trough
The Labour peer and former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer told the Labour Campaign for Human Rights that he regretted that the Labour government demonised ‘fat cat’ lawyers. According to the Times, Lord Falconer was ‘instrumental in efforts to curb the legal aid budget and Mr Blair’s Labour government named the ten law firms that earned the most from the criminal defence legal aid budget’.

Lord Falconer told the meeting that this promoted a feeling that ‘those legal aid lawyers have got their noses in the trough and they’re all being overpaid’.

The Times article ended thus: ‘Lord Falconer is a partner at Gibson Dunn, a US law firm in London whose full equity partners earned £2.56 million each on average last year.’

Bar news
Criminal barristers are due to reveal this afternoon if they are to take direct action in protest over legal aid fees – the Law Society’s Gazette reported this morning. The Criminal Bar Association has proposed a ‘whole profession walkout’ on 1 July in response to a long-running dispute. ‘In his final Monday message before the ballot closed, chair of the CBA Chris Henley QC urged barristers to act. He wrote: “We have said enough. The issues have been set out comprehensively. You all work so hard. Please everyone, take this opportunity to vote.”’

Barristers volunteering through Advocate (the new name for the Bar Pro Bono Unit) in 2018 gave over 10,000 hours of legal help, equating to ‘just shy of £2.25 million in fees (if they had charged)’.

In Volunteers’ Week, Advocate launched their ‘I Do Pro Bono’ campaign to profile the experiences of some of the many barristers who undertake pro bono through them. A quarter of the Bar, including 85% of all QCs are on the Advocate panel, but the charity is encouraging more members of the Junior Bar to join the panel.

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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