We are a group of lawyers and non-lawyers, campaigning against the Government’s proposals to change legal aid. We believe that if these changes are implemented, they will seriously undermine the quality of criminal defence legal representation, creating a risk of miscarriages of justice; exclude some of the most vulnerable people in our society from access to justice; and make government bodies less accountable for their actions.
Our current campaign action – Postcards for Justice – aims to raise awareness about the changes to legal aid and judicial review among a wider audience, and send a clear message to the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg: please defend access to justice for everyone! Have a look at the messages people have written, and photos of people signing their postcards on our blog.
Several notable public figures including Baroness Doreen Lawrence, Emma Thompson, Noam Chomsky and Skin have signed a postcard to Nick Clegg. Have a look at their photos under the ‘Celebrity supporters’ tag.
The thousands of postcards we have received from concerned citizens from across the UK will be delivered to Nick Clegg at 9am on Thursday 28th November 2013. Read our press release here.
We are part of the Justice Alliance
Below are some of the highlights of our campaign actions to date:
Demonstration outside the Ministry of Justice, 4th June 2013
Held to coincide with the day the Government consultation ended, the demonstration was supported by major charities including Amnesty International, Liberty, The Children’s Society, Bail for Immigration Detainees, Reprieve, Kids Company, Freedom from Torture, the Fahamu Refugee Programme, and leading law firms and barristers chambers including Wilson Solicitors LLP, Deighton Pierce Glynn, 1 Pump Court, Garden Court Chambers, Doughty Street Chambers, and Matrix Chambers.
Hundreds of people took part, and the demonstration was the first item of national news on Channle 4 news that evening. Here are links to coverage of the demonstration in The Guardian, on Liberty’s Blog, in the Law Society Gazette, on The Justice Gap. You can also hear recordings of some of the speakers here: Mike Fordham QC, Dinah Rose QC, Kat Craig (Reprieve), Bianca Jagger, Andy Slaughter MP (Shadow Justice Minister), Geoffrey Robinson QC
Legal Aid Question Time, 18th June 2013
We asked the opening question to a Panel consisting of Lord McNally (Minister of State for Justice), Maura McGowan (Chair of the Bar Council), Andy Slaughter MP (Shadow Justice Minister), Steve Hynes (Legal Action Group) at this event chaired by Joshua Rozenberg. You can read our blog post on the debate here.
Meeting with Lord McNally, 23rd July 2013
We challenged Lord McNally on the government’s proposals to cut legal aid funding for Judicial Reviews (link to blog post here) and to introduce a Residence Test (link to blog post here). Two recipients of legal aid came to the meeting and told Lord McNally why legal aid had saved their lives (link to blog post here).
Rally for Legal Aid, 30th July 2013
We supported and helped to promote this fantastic rally organised by the Justice Alliance to mark the 64th anniversary of the birth of the modern legal aid system. Here are some links to write ups about the rally in The Guardian, The Justice Gap, legal aid campaigner Gemma Blythe’s blog. You can listen to some of the speakers here: Shami Chakrabarti (Director of Liberty); former prisoner Leeroy Skeete; Matt Foot (solicitor at Birnberg Peirce and co founder of the Justice Alliance), Helen Shaw (co-director of Inquest), Shauneen Lambe (founder Just for Kids Law).
Design4justice competition, August 2013
We launched a competition to create a postcard design to use in our Postcards for Justice campaign. We were looking for an image that evoked the idea of justice being denied to people, or a lack of equality before the law. The panel of judges, who included Peter Tatchell, had a tough job narrowing the many entries down to a shortlist, and then selecting a winner.
Justice Alliance letter to Nick Clegg, 1st November 2013
We joined over 120 charities and organisations including Amnesty UK, Liberty and The Children’s Society in signing an open letter to Nick Clegg, asking him to ensure that the changes to legal aid are stayed. The letter followed on from the vote at the Liberal Democrat party conference in September 2013 to stay proposed changes to criminal or civil legal aid “pending thorough consultation and scrutiny to ensure there will be no adverse effect upon … access to justice and the availability of local justice”.