November 28 2023

‘It’s not about lawyers. It’s about justice.’

‘It’s not about lawyers. It’s about justice.’

SAVE UK JUSTICE DEMO TOMORROW. Charities, campaigners and lawyers will be gathering outside the Ministry of Justice tomorrow at 4pm to coincide with the deadline for consulting on the new legal aid proposals. The event is being organised by staff at Wilson Solicitors LLP.

Speakers at the demonstration will include the QCs Geoffrey Robertson, Dinah Rose, Mike Fordham and Stephen Knafler, as well as leading human rights groups Liberty, Reprieve Freedom from Torture and Kids Company and the human rights campaigner Bianca Jagger.

In a statement to be read out at the demonstration, Michael Mansfield QC, who has represented the families of Stephen Lawrence, Jean-Charles de Menezes and the victims of Bloody Sunday, will say:

‘None of this is primarily about lawyers, although they are affected. It is about a basic provision, justice, the very substance of what is left of our democracy. No fundamental rights are worth the paper they are written upon unless they can be enforced, especially against overweening and corruptive authorities. There has been, with small exceptions, an intransigence and almost dismissive contempt by government towards the plight of the citizen.’

‘This is not just about the high profile cases that make headlines. Every year, legal aid helps thousands of people who have been wrongly threatened with eviction from their homes by a local authority, or unlawfully detained by the state. The changes that are proposed will make it impossible for many of these people to access any legal help at all.’
Dinah Rose QC of Blackstone Chambers

‘The savage attacks on our proud traditions of open, equal justice keep on coming. These proposals will eviscerate the legal aid scheme. The unprincipled residency test for civil legal aid will create an underclass uniquely vulnerable to neglect and abuse. Squeezing out decent criminal practitioners will drive down standards and inevitably lead to miscarriages of justice. Meanwhile the Government protects itself from effective challenge by restricting legal aid for judicial review.’
James Welch,  Liberty

‘The legal aid reforms will effectively remove access to the courts from some of the most vulnerable people in our society, and pile red tape on the rest of us. Past legal systems have excluded aliens, Jews, prisoners and slaves from legal rights. Can we allow this approach to be repeated in 21st century Britain?’
Sue Willman, Deighton Pierce Glynn

‘Excluding the most vulnerable in society from legal aid will put the state and public authorities beyond judicial scrutiny – unlawful decisions affecting fundamental human rights will be made with impunity and social cohesion will be severely strained.’
Michael Hanley, Senior Partner at Wilson Solicitors LLP

The proposals include significant changes including:

  • cutting the number of criminal legal aid law firms from 1,600 currently to just 400
  • the removal of choice of legal aid defence lawyer in criminal cases
  • cutting legal aid for people in prison
  • cutting funding for judicial review challenges against public authorities, immunising the government from challenge
  • introducing a discriminatory residence test which will leave thousands of migrants, returning British citizens and babies under one year old without access to legal assistance, even in the most serious cases such as care proceedings, child abduction and homelessness