Monday, 2 March 2015

The Tuesday Truth

CLSA/LCCSA Judicial Review- More Funds needed please

On Friday 27th February 2015 the Court Appeal granted leave to the CLSA, LCCSA and Law Society to appeal against the High Court refusal of those applicants judicial review of the Ministry of Justices Legal aid reforms. The Judicial Review specifically related to the MOJ proposal to sell off 527 duty solicitor contracts for provision of Criminal Defence work, a policy likely to result in a substantial reduction in access to justice and quality of representation. The economic evidence suggests that most firms will not survive without a duty contract. As well as securing leave the injunction against this tender process was preserved by the court until the full appeal on 10th and 11th March 2015.

This is a substantial achievement. The CLSA and LCCSA have led the campaign against these proposals and deserve considerable credit for continuing the fight. However the JR appeal fund needs more money now.

You may have given before, and that is fantastic but the fight goes on because what is at stake is access to justice, equality of arms and state accountability. The LCCSA and CLSA has assembled an outstanding team of lawyers to fight the cause supported by dedicated volunteers from both associations but they need your help. PLEASE CONTRIBUTE NOW. The link is

Relay for rights/Stand up for Justice at Not the Global Law Summit 
Written by Subashini Nathan who was called to the Bar in 2013. She is currently an immigration paralegal at Birnberg Pierce and Partners, seeking pupilage. 

I was brought up near Rochester Castle, which in 1215 was held by the baronial forces against the Crown. It was the site of a seven week siege led by King John. Severe food shortages led to Rochester surrendering to the King, but his victory was brief as King John died the following year.

800 years later, and I find that we are still struggling with arbitrary and unaccountable power. This Relay was us: ordinary people, charities, NGOs and lawyers resisting the siege laid by King John Grayling in his destruction of the rule of law, due process and access to justice.

I have been part of the Justice Alliance as a voice from the Tamil community, representing an NGO, since the beginning of Justice Alliance in June 3013. When Matt Foot and Rhona Freidman shot round the idea of a Relay, I was up for it. I enjoyed doing Duke of Edinburgh expeditions whilst in school, and I thought the relay would be a piece of cake, which it was if you like hard blister inducing soggy fruit cake that is at risk of being dronwed by the Thames.

We started on a sunny Saturday, at 12 noon in Runnymede, where hundreds of us turned up with non baronial banners and carrying water bottles and blister plasters, not spears this time. We rallied on borrowed US soil, the site of the Americal Bar Associations Magna Carta memorial.

Words of support from Emma Thompson were read out and we heard from Susan Matthews about the battle to clear her son Alfie Meadows who sustained a brain in jury when arrested by police at a student fees demonstration. Ruth Hayes of Islington Law Centre then explained the huge impact of the legal aid cuts across the advice sector. We were sent on our way by Anthony Barnett founder of Open Democracy who provided the historical context for where we were and what we were about to do.

The Relay was to carry Clauses 39 & 40, which were read out by Anthony Barnett at the start of the 42 mile journey.

(39) No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.

(40) To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.

With the ceremony over we were off accompanied by King John Grayling, some four-legged friends, family members and children. We had to carefully tread past crazed wild horses, and we avoided being stranded on the wrong bank of the river at Shepperton just catching the last ferry to the South bank captained by Ferryman Dave (no relation to Brian, his joke not mine!).

The hardest day by far was the Sunday, where we made an early start in Walton on Thames and pegged it to Richmond. We arrived at the appointed pub to join a much larger crowd and shuffled on to the Thames Path towards Putney. We walked through the rain, dodging the river as it broke the bank and flooded the paths. Frequent stops at pubs (one inhabitated by a suspiciously young looking Anthea Turner) kept us going as we walked under low bridges, cutting through mud, runners, cyclists and low hanging branches.

On Monday morning limping by now we walked from St Marys Church Putney, the scene of the Putney Debates, to Westminster, with King John Grayling in tow. As we got closer to Westminster, we were joined by an ever growing crowd of supporters, musicians and the wonderfully charming Maxine Peake. I was shocked and humbled at the turnout in Old Palace Yard which showed that the Justice Alliance is a movement that is relevant and well-supported nearly two years after its formation.

The Rally kicked off with Greg Foxsmith staging a mock impeachment process of King John Grayling who had nothing to say for himself. In between there were inspirational speakers which included Jon Black and Robin Murray of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association and the Criminal Law Solicitors Associatio; the leader of the probation officers union NAPO , Justice Alliance Co-founder, Matt Foot,  Labour MP Karl Turner; Marcia Rigg, whose brother Sean Rigg died in police custody; co-director of INQUEST, Deborah Coles and Barry Georges sister, Michelle Bates. What really hit home was hearing the final words of Professor Costas Douzinas, The only battle we do not win is the battle we do not join  followed by a few home truths from a young man Awate Suleiman talking about his experiences at the hands of our injustice system.

The Rally led by banner-men, minstrels, a jester and King John Grayling then headed out to Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, the site of the Global Law Summit. A delegation managed to persuade the organisers to accept the Magna Carta (or rather the Relays copy). A letter accompanying it asked that clauses 39 and 40 of the Magna Carta be read out in the conference itself. Crowds of nervous looking delegates gathered at the windows of QE2 to take a good look at the side of the law that was never discussed within the Global Law Summit.

That evening Stand Up for Justice: Justice Just Got Funny (CPD to be confirmed) was a fantastic, well organised end to the 42 miles Relay. I was lucky to bag a seat in the front row and had the joy of heckling Stewart Lee and riffing with MC Ian Stone.

The full three days would have not been the same without the cheer, goodwill and support of the many people who turned up and out to walk with us. As someone just starting out in a career in legal aid law the difference between the suits at the Global Law Summit and the hundreds of people who supported the Not the Global Law Summit was stark. They looked embarrassed and shifty and we were proud and united in defending legal aid and the Magna Carta principles which undperpin access to justice.  


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