On the 6 January, the Justice Alliance will mark the joint national day of action by barristers and solicitors with a demonstration against the Government’s determination to impose further legal aid cuts.
A cross-section of NGO’s, Trade Unions, charities and grass roots organisations of the Justice Alliance which includes Amnesty UK, Liberty, Unite, the Howard League for Penal Reform and the Children’s Society, will join with the legal aid profession to highlight serious concerns with the cuts to prison law and proposals to change criminal law; introduce a Residence Test and limit access to Judicial Review.
Justice Alliance believes the cuts will:
· Destroy the fabric of the justice system in England and Wales
· Lead to a dramatic rise in miscarriages of justice
· Undermine the principle of access to the courts for all
· Severely undermine the ability of individuals including victims of torture, victims of police abuse and victims of sexual grooming to hold the state to account.
· Damage the UK’s international legal reputation
· Destroy a value for money legal aid system; create knock on costs of up to £47 million and cause long term waste of tax payers’ money.
Matt Foot, solicitor and founder of Justice Alliance: “There is widespread opposition to Grayling’s proposals. They will have a devastating effect on the rights of ordinary people in this country and undermine the ability to challenge unlawful government actions, which the success of Lewisham Hospital campaigners has shows is vital. No-one has stood up and supported these proposals. Even Grayling did not attend the debate in Parliament.”
Pragna Patel, Southall Black Sisters: “The new proposals will exacerbate problems of access to justice for women who experience violence and abuse since it builds on an already problematic and discriminatory LASPO regime. The residence test for example, will exclude vulnerable categories such as migrant women and children subject to domestic violence and trafficking from accessing legal aid for a range of inter-related matters necessary for their protection. The residence test will lead to fundamental breaches of the human rights of vulnerable women and children who are entitled to equal protection under the Government’s own policies and strategies on violence against women and under international human rights law and standards including those on discrimination and violence against women.”
Professor Ben Bowling, Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at King’s College London School of Law: “Legal aid is essential to providing access to justice for everyone, and is especially important in cases where the state – such as the police, prison and government officials – exceeds or abuses its powers against people. Cuts in legal aid will deny justice to the most vulnerable people in our society.
James Welch, Liberty’s Legal Director, standing in front of Lib Dem HQ said: “Legal protections are meaningless if people can’t access effective legal representation. The current proposals put justice beyond reach for the most vulnerable and put the fairness of our criminal justice system in serious jeopardy. ”
Sue Willman, human rights solicitor at Deighton Pierce Glynn: “Do politicians understand that the main victims of the residence test will be the poorest and most vulnerable people in the UK? To name a few, clients who are disabled, have long term illnesses and mental health needs, pregnant women and children. Legal aid has been their safety net. ”
The Justice Alliance will continue to protest and show the strength of feeling of charities and ordinary people against the proposals.
The demonstration will take place from 9.30 – 10.30 a.m. at Westminster Magistrates, 181 Marylebone Road, London. Nearest Tube Edgware Road.
Speakers include: Janis Sharp (mother of Gary McKinnon), Frances Crook (Chief Executive, Howard League for Penal Reform), Nigel Lithman QC (Chairman of the Criminal Bar Association), Olivia and Tony O’Sullivan, (Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign), Patrick Maguire (Maguire Seven), Ian Lawrence (General Secretary, NAPO), Pragna Patel (Director Southall Black Sisters), Professor Ben Bowling (Kings College London & StopWatch), Karen Buck MP, Judith Freedman (Consortium of Expert Witnesses), Sue Willman (civil rights solicitor)
Media contact: Camilla Graham Wood email@example.com