Tuesday, 5 May 2015

The Tuesday Truth

Vote for Justice
By Paul Harris

I telephoned the officer on a number of occasions in order to try and arrange for the return of my client’s property.

My client had left over 30 messages. Amongst the property outstanding was an IPad, IPhone and credit cards.

Having received no response I wrote to the officer stating that if the matter was not sorted by the end of the day I would make a complaint and also contact the judge dealing with the case.

Finally a terse and irritated officer called me. He said it was up to the officer in the case to decide what property could be returned and I should know that.

I said it was unacceptable that my client had left so many messages which had not been returned.

The officer remained unsympathetic. I reminded him in case it was not obvious that I acted for the victim in this matter who had been attacked near her home, left badly bruised and who had helped the police track the offenders and had not heard from them for a week about the return of property that she needed to live her life. The property was returned by the end of the day.

Should victims need solicitors to get their property back? Does this sit with the Ministry of Justice Victim’s Charter? Does anyone have access to justice these days?

Many will have read the coverage in the Guardian on access to justice and in particular the open letter signed by retired judges and many other experts.

Chris Grayling has left other government departments in disarray and now he will leave the Ministry of Justice in similar disarray. The only real investment he seems to have made is in the new reception area currently being built at MOJ Towers in Petty France. Most would  think the old one in the state of art building which has had many millions spent on it in the last 10 years was more than adequate.

This afternoon there is a goodbye to Grayling party at MOJ Petty France. It is at 5pm Please attend. He has been barely visible during the Conservative election campaign. Regardless of whether he is a qualified lawyer or not he has certainly not acted judiciously in his dealings with the courts or those that run it. Probation, prisons, judges, lawyers and most importantly the parties who are either being prosecuted or seeking relief are victims of his assault on an independent justice system.

In a week’s time we will have a new government, with either the Conservatives or Labour as the major party.

Successive governments have treated access to justice as a luxury item not an essential pillar of democracy.

This cannot continue under the next government. None of us involved in delivering justice deserve to be treated with such disrespect. All of the agencies must work together to make sure that we speak with one voice. We yearn for some stability and recognition for what we do.

At the Rally held on 23rd April the importance of these issues were recognised by retired Court of Appeal Judges Moses and Hooper.

It is not just the public and politicians who need to understand these issues, we need to send a clear message to the civil servants who pedal out these ill thought policies who are unaccountable hiding behind a ministerial shield.

Indeed if there are savings to be made it may not just be on unnecessary renovations of receptions at Petty France, it may be on overly complex and bureaucratic processes dreamt up by those who inhabit MOJ HQ to justify their existence, increasing the administrative burden on the procurement of legal aid at the expense of providing proper resources to those who deliver it.

Whoever you vote for the fight is not over, but the message we need to send is that we will not stop

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