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Save Justice UK – Postcards for Justice

Save Justice UK – Postcards for Justice

The difference between a recession and a boom, as any legal aid lawyer will tell you, is that during a boom the government cuts legal aid, whereas during a recession they cut everything else as well.

There was a timely reminder yesterday from President of the Supreme Court Lord Neuberger as to the threat to access to justice posed by the ongoing evisceration of legal aid:

Cutting the cost of legal aid deprives the very people who most need the protection of the courts of the ability to get legal advice and representation. That is true whether one reduces the types of claim which qualify for legal aid or increases the stringency of the requirements of eligibility for legal aid. The recent changes have done both. If a person with a potential claim cannot get legal aid, there are two possible consequences. The first is that the claim is dropped: that is a rank denial of justice and a blot on the rule of law. The second is that the claim is pursued, in which case it will be pursued inefficiently, and will take up much more of the court staffs’ time and of the judge’s time in and out of court. So that it means greater costs for the court system, and delay for other litigants.

Access to justice is a boring expression that means, for example, in one of my cases which would no longer be eligible for funding, not being deported to a country you’ve never lived in when you are British.

Noam Chomsky, a very clever man who supports legal aid
Noam Chomsky, a very clever man who supports legal aid

The Minister for Justice has remorselessly, and with a beaming smile upon his glowing features, continued to apply cut after cut to the only public service to have been repeatedly slashed over the past decade. He, of course, is the Lord Chancellor without a legal qualification. It would be cheap to say that he is the Minister for Justice with no apparent understanding of justice. Cheap and accurate.

Emma Thomson writing a postcard, or possibly being asked to sign for a door she didn’t order
Emma Thompson – supporting legal aid

The denial of legal aid to people who have not been “lawfully resident” fits in comfortably with the Tories’ UKIP-inspired pogrom against foreigners[1], even if the government condescended to allow legal aid for newborn babies lawfully resident[2]. The already crippled criminal legal aid sector faced yet another massive cut, which received little coverage because the ludicrous and insane Price Competitive Tendering system was fought off – for now. Judicial review faces cuts on the basis that there is apparently too much of it, which may or may not be related to the fact that judicial review challenges the power of the government to do things that are illegal whenever it feels like it. Family law, already in chaos following LASPO, was again assaulted.

Peter Tatchell - supporting legal aid
Peter Tatchell – supporting legal aid

The Postcards for Justice Campaign is a light in the dark. The plan is to send 10,000 postcards to Nick Clegg to ask him to stand up for the things he told us all he was going to stand up for back when everyone was agreeing with Nick. The Liberal Democrats have always supported access to justice and legal aid, and it’s time to ask them to protect the weakest in society as we believe, when push comes to shove, they will.

The changes to legal aid are not inevitable. They are not necessary. They are not based on facts. They can be stopped.

Please write a postcard, and get everyone you know who cares about legal aid and access to justice to write one too.

Somebody needs to stand up for justice in the United Kingdom. God knows it’s not going to be the Minister.


[1] Which last week also received a boost from the latest plan from Crazy May the Qatada-obsessed Cat-lady – to make every student, businessman, family member, entrepreneur or any other kind of legal migrant who wishes to stay in the UK to challenge one of the Home Office’s famously rational refusals of leave automatically become a criminal -http://www.freemovement.org.uk/2013/10/11/new-immigration-bill-summary-of-clauses/#more-10312.

[2] Newborn babies who are unlawfully resident, of course, are just the sort of scroungers who need to be prevented from taking endless spurious legal cases they can’t pay for.

Greg Ó Ceallaigh

Greg is a barrister specialising in asylum, immigration and public law at Garden Court Chambers. He deals with many Dublin third country removals including to Italy.

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