JusticeWatch: ‘Making simple problems into complex arguments’

No rush
The government had finally ‘set the ball rolling’ in the long-awaited/ much delayed LASPO review. The Law Society’s Gazette reported that the justice minister Sir Oliver Heald told the all-party parliamentary group on legal aid that the government ‘now considers enough time has passed for the reforms to have bedded in for us to begin the review process’.

‘We will look at how the act has been affected by litigation, the various reviews of legal aid done by bodies such as the National Audit Office and others. This will lead to an initial discussion to the extent to which changes to legal aid met their objectives which is the test for the post-legislative memorandum. Then we will begin work on the full post-implementation review of legal aid.’
Oliver Heald

‘All too often, any conversation on legal aid tends to neglect the people it’s designed to protect, and comes back to the value of lawyers – which, in too many people’s view, is highly overrated,’ write Amnesty International’s Rachel Logan in an article about the review.

‘The fat cat barrister in a pinstripe suit swilling claret in a Hogwarts-esque banqueting hall (or even pontificating in a wig and gown à la Harry Potter in a courtroom). The smooth-talking solicitor billing caviar lunches to their clients,’ Logan continued. ‘Both of them laughing together in their Islington townhouses as they make simple problems into complex arguments only they can explain.

‘The reality of life as the average civil legal aid lawyer is a million miles from those images – more like stale court café sandwiches and cross-country train journeys which cost more than the fixed fee you’ll get for turning up to demonstrate why the Home Office have made a completely unsustainable decision on your unaccompanied child client’s immigration case.’
Rachel Logan, Amnesty

Amnesty’s report The cuts that Hurt looked at the impact of the LASPO cuts. There was ‘an ever-increasing and unanimous body of evidence’ that the cuts have had ‘an incredibly damaging impact on access to justice’, she continued. ‘So that’s why we’ve been calling on the government to stop prevaricating, and announce its long-promised review as a matter of urgency,’ she said.

Tweet of the week

Open Justice Charter
The Law Society’s Gazette reported on the launch of the open justice charter, a new initiative from the Centre for Criminal Appeals. The Charter – which is published in Proof, the magazine of the Justice Gap – is calling for recordings of court proceedings to be made available free of charge and an end to the practice of destroying them after seven years.

‘There, access to court transcripts has been a right for decades whereas here it costs individuals thousands of pounds to prove what happened at trial. This makes it very difficult for people who are innocent but have little money to show they were wrongly convicted,’ said James Burley, an investigator at the centre.

Spreading anxiety
The number of EU nationals detained in immigration centres had increased fivefold since the Conservatives came to power, The Independent reported. ‘The sharp rise has led to concerns the Government is trying to “spread anxiety” among people from EU countries living in the UK, in an effort to deter others from moving to Britain,’ the paper said.

In 2015, 3,699 EU citizens were detained under immigration powers – 11.4% of all detainees – while in 2009 just 768 were detained, 2.7% of the total. In many cases, no crime had been committed ‘with people detained for reasons such as losing their ID card or having a birthday party in a park’, according to the charity Bail for Immigration Detainees.

Radio 4 appeal
LawWorks, the solicitors’ pro bono charity, is to feature in BBC Radio 4 Appeal on Sunday on January 22.

Clive Anderson will be making making the appeal which will feature the story of Trish, a 59 year old grandmother who has been caring for her 18 year old grandson, Billy, since he was three. Trish had to give up full-time work to care for Billy – who is blind, autistic and has epilepsy – but she struggled to get support when Billy turned 18. Unable to pay for a lawyer and not eligible for legal aid, Trish received pro bono legal advice from a solicitor volunteering at a pro bono advice clinic in a children’s hospice. Following correspondence with the NHS, Billy now receives extra night-time respite care and additional respite care at weekends.

The Appeal will be broadcast on Radio 4 at 7.55am on Sunday 22 January (repeated at 9.26pm) and again on Thursday 26  January at 3.27pm.

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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