JusticeWatch: Justice for Laughing Boy

Justice for Laughing Boy
Connor Sparrowhawk’s mother spoke to Lucie Boase in a moving interview for the Justice Gap. Connor – know as Laughing Boy – drowned following an epileptic seizure whilst bathing unsupervised in a NHS facility.

Sara Ryan recalled her son as ‘a strong defender of human rights, fairness and quality’. ‘He’d rant and rage and call on his legal team to issue injunctions. This was often around being told to empty the dishwasher… . He’d crash the plates and shout about the ways in which his human rights were being breached, even calling it slavery,’ Ryan told Boase. ‘Our plates remain chipped. And Connor would have expected a strong, human-rights-based campaign around what happened to him.’

Ryan spoke about her support for ‘Hillsborough Law’ which seeks to ensure an ‘equality of arms’ between the state and individuals in inquest proceedings. As for the inquest process itself, Ryan said: ‘It’s totally bizarre, the argument that it’s just inquisitorial. You think, in that case, get rid of any legal representation from the room, just leave the coroner and the families.’

One recalled Southern Health’s legal team ‘sitting there like it was a football match’. ‘They were so gleeful when something visibly went their way. I just couldn’t believe they were openly in it for a fight. Our kids were so upset in the public gallery that our solicitor had to go and speak to [Southern Health] about it.’

Fragile market
The Law Society said that ‘concerns over the sustainability of the fragile criminal legal aid sector in England and Wales’ had forced it to JR the Ministry of Justice’s litigators’ graduated fee scheme proposals – as reported by the Times’ brief (here).

The MoJ reckons that more pages of evidence are being served by the Crown Prosecution Service, and that average costs per case are increasing. Chancery Lane reckons that rates for less complex cases in the crown courts ‘are now so low that firms doing this work have been making a loss’.

‘This fragile criminal legal aid market cannot stand any further cuts. Any more will put access to justice in this country under even greater threat.’
Christina Blacklaws, the Law Society’s vice-president

Meanwhile, the justice minister Dominic Raab defended the plans at a Westminster Hall debate on legal aid, reported the Law Society’s Gazette. He said that since 2013/14, annual spend on work under the LGFS scheme has risen by more than £30m, mainly as a result of R v Napper [2014].

‘We have targeted the action to the 2% of Crown court cases—the most expensive cases—in which the problem was identified,’ Raab said. ‘Effectively, the change involves a shift in policy so that more remuneration is for work that is actually done and not just for the amount of paperwork that is produced in court.’

Raab revealed that the ministry will shortly make an announcement on evidence requirements for domestic violence and abuse following an internal review.

Not missed
‘The birth of the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA) was not celebrated by many and its death will be mourned by fewer,’ said the chair of the Bar, Andrew Langdon QC welcoming the Bar Standards Board’s decision to ditch the controversial scheme.

‘It is well known that many barristers were unhappy with the proposed scheme, not least because it risked placing both advocates and judges in a problematic position, given their respective roles during a trial,’ Langdon commented. ‘Similarly, the Bar does not recognise that the concept of a ‘plea only advocate’ was compatible with the role of defence counsel.’

Locked up indefinitely
Judges, barristers, and immigration experts said Britain’s routine and lengthy detention of immigrants was resulting in ‘numerous injustices’, reported BuzzFeed News. ‘Three judges speaking on condition of anonymity revealed their concerns about the barriers to justice for people held in immigration detention for a Bar Council study shared with BuzzFeed News ahead of publication on Thursday,’ it claimed.

One judge said: ‘Too many people are banged up. The [book of immigration rules] bangs on about presumption of liberty … and connection to removal, but look what happens.’

Another told the Bar Council study that since LASPO: ‘We see far more litigants in person. It is shocking when you consider that this is about liberty, a key human right.’ In over one in five of the more than 1,500 hearings monitored for the Bar Council, the applicant did not have a lawyer.

‘Many people are surprised to learn that individuals can be locked up indefinitely in prison conditions, not for committing a criminal offence but for administrative convenience whilst their immigration status is decided or arrangements are made for their removal,’ Andrew Langdon QC told BuzzFeed.

Hostile environment
A woman who reported being kidnapped and raped over a six month period to the police was arrested as she sought care, wrote Natalie Bloomer for Politics.co.uk. The woman, five months pregnant at the time of her arrest, reported to the police that she had been kidnapped and raped in Germany. Officers took her to the Havens sexual assault centre, which provides care for women who have been sexually assaulted and she was then arrested and taken into custody at an east London police station. She was later interrogated over her immigration status.

‘The shocking case reveals how far Theresa May’s “hostile environment” towards immigrants has gone and raises serious questions about whether immigration enforcement practices are now discouraging the victims of crimes from reporting them to the police,” she said.

Bloomer reported that the Havens centre ‘reacted furiously to the arrest, lodging a formal complaint with the Metropolitan police and raising the issue directly with commissioner Cressida Dick during her visit to the organisation earlier this year’. The arrest was ‘just the latest example of government departments and charity outreach services turning into immigration enforcement divisions under the orders of the Home Office’.


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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