LALYs 2015: ‘Lets show them how legal aid lawyers fight’

01.07.2015. LAPG ‘Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year Awards 2015.‘Suspend the cuts’ or face meltdown in the courts, defence lawyers told Michael Gove at this year’s Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year Awards. This year’s event took place on the same day as this week’s action against the government to protest a second 8.75% free cut started. The ceremony began with a special award for four lawyers leading the industrial action – Bill Waddington, Robin Murray, Jonathan Black, and Paul Harris – and closed with an outstanding achievement for the Public Law Project in recognition of its role ‘fighting the legal aid cuts’ through the group’s challenges to the resident test and exceptional funding regime.

Directing his comments to the new Lord Chancellor, Robin Murray, vice-chair of the Criminal Law Solicitors Association, promised to press on with this week’s action:

‘Mr Gove, if you want to save the criminal justice system you have to recognize that solicitors are the engine room that drives that vehicle for change. Without proper funding these reforms will fail. Unless you suspend the cuts we will carry on the fight for justice we have begun today. Lets show them how legal aid lawyers fight.’
Robin Murray, CLSA

Murray received the award alongside the CLSA’s Bill Waddington and the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association’s Jonathan Black and Paul Harris. ‘These cuts and reforms will destroy our justice system and therefore, although angry and sad that it has come to this, our profession will not stand by and take it anymore,’ said Paul Harris. ‘We are fighting back – not just for our professional futures  – but, more importantly, for the people that legal aid is set up to protect.’

01.07.2015. LAPG ‘Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year Awards 2015.Jonathan Black referenced the lack of support from the Bar’s leaders for the protest when he thanked, amongst others, ‘the 95% of the 1,700 plus [Criminal Bar Association’s members] who voted in the ballot to finally take action against Mr Gove for the contempt he showed for our profession – the same contempt he showed for the teaching profession.’ The only other time in the LALYs’ 13 year history that such an award was made was to recognize Doreen Lawrence in 2012.

Jo Hickman, head of case work at the Public Law Project, spoke about the ‘dramatic changes to the legal aid scheme’ and the profession’s fraught relationship with ‘a politically motivated Lord Chancellor’. Chris Grayling once dismissed JR as a ‘promotional tool for countless left wing campaigners’. Hickman, holding her six-week old baby, said: ‘It’s not a left wing position or even a political position. It is there to protect the quality of access to the courts.’ She added that it was ‘refreshing’ to hear the new Lord Chancellor. Michael Gove acknowledge that the justice system was ‘only available to the few that can afford it, but out of reach for the many.’

LALY 2Marcia Willis-Stewart, managing partner of Birnberg Peirce, won the public law solicitor category. The solicitor has acted for the families of Mark Duggan and Jean Charles de Menezes as well as the families of 75 victims of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster in the current inquest. She was asked what it was like instructing 23 barristers on Hillsborough. ‘They know who’s in charge,’ she replied.

 

LALYs 2015 winners

 

  • Special award: Bill Waddington, Robin Murray, Jonathan Black, Paul Harris
  •  Outstanding achievement: Public Law Project
  • Public law: Marcia Willis-Stewart, Birnberg Peirce
  • Legal aid firm/not for profit agency: Central England Law Centre
  • Children’s rights: Noel Arnold (Coram Children’s Legal Centre)
  • Legal aid newcomer: Connor Johnston (Garden Court Chambers)
  • Social and welfare: Jo Renshaw (Turpin & Miller)
  • Family legal aid: Sarah Cove (Miles & Partners)
  • Family mediator: Margaret Pendlebury (MiD Mediation)
  • Legal aid barrister: Alison Pickup (Doughty Street)
  • Housing: Jayesh Kunwardia (Hodge Jones & Allen)
  •  Criminal defence: Mark Ashford (TV Edwards)
  •  Access to justice through IT: Courtnav (Royal Courts of Justice Advice Bureau & Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer)

 

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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