A series of days of action may regrettably prove to be the only option in the current circumstances.
The APL would encourage members to join other practitioner groups if (a) it would have an impact, and (b) it did not unduly prejudice clients’ interests. We can regrettably argue neither.
The impact of our members’ non-attendance will be evident on the wings and in the segregation units of HM Prisons. As a Home Office spokesperson is quoted – by the Daily Mail – as saying in the aftermath of recent unrest across several prisons: “We do not normally make announcements about this kind of disturbance”. It follows that whilst unity on the symbolic day of action on 6th January 2014 was wholly justifiable, repeated gestures of a similar nature, from the APL’s perspective, are not, as the impact will be hidden.
As noted in our previous statement of support ahead of the January day of action, the obstacles faced by our members’ clients are in many ways graver than those faced by defendants awaiting decisions on charge, trial or sentence in the criminal courts. The APL continues to regret the ignorance of the Ministry of Justice, other practitioner groups and until recently the Law Society of the effects of prison law cuts on resettlement and the rule of law. This is perhaps a consequence of our relatively small membership.
It is positive that support has been offered, nonetheless, in high profile arenas. A regret motion was brought by Lord Pannick QC in the House of Lords, specifically on prison law cuts, and debated only weeks ago. Each and every speaker opposed the cuts before the Government spokesperson rose to conclude the debate. An action for judicial review, brought by the Howard League and the Prisoners Advice Service, is scheduled for a permission hearing on 6th March 2014.