Saving Legal Aid – 17th june 2013

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In Manchester now, there is a movement the likes of which is rarely seen – PCS union members who work in the court system have joined with lawyers, activists and members of the community to fight the proposed changes to the legal system.

The changes that are proposed are no small and innocuous administrative changes – the proposals from all sides are akin to Dr Beaching’s plans with the natural railways, with a mix of Thatcher thrown in. They include amongst a long list, the privatisation of court services, the removal of access to legal aid for many and the massive restriction of access to judicial review – the main way to challenge the government’s attacks.

These are some of the many reasons that the PCS had called for strike action. This is why the lawyers are fighting.  This is why members of the community are gathering together to fight.

Press Release! – Say No To Legal Aid Reform! – Protest, Tuesday 21st May

The Ministry of Justice has put forward a plan to reform the Criminal Legal Aid system. Their plans include the removal of the ability for a defendant to choose their own lawyers, it removes the principal of competition on quality rather than cost and it lays out a roadmap for quartering the number of legal aid firms and decimating the sector, while also pushing for massive companies like Serco, G4S, Atos and Eddie Stobart to join the legal sector.

These changes will be devastating to the legal aid sector, and will lead to not only a loss of skill, but also a loss of justice. The removal of a client’s choice of solicitor means the removal of specialist firms and solicitors from the sector – complex cases such as computer crimes, protest situations and allegations of fraud will become harder to defend. Harder to defend not because of any new wave of evidence, but because the skills and understandings that are required to put forward a good defense have been drained from the niche firms that will disappear if only a few of the recommendations in the Ministry’s document go forward. Leaving the only skilled people in those areas either in paid-for defense firms or the halls of the Crown Prosecution service – truly unbalancing Liberty’s carefully balanced scales. The loss of choice and its inevitable impact on available specialists for clients with mental health issues, special needs and very young clients (12/13 yrs or younger) will have a devastating impact on some of the most vulnerable in our society.

On the day of the Ministry Of Justice’s consultation in Manchester, we are preparing a response to these plans. We are coming together, rallying, and marching on their consultation. Among the speakers will be lawyers Robert Lizar and Peter Weatherby and Jennifer Hilliard – the mothers of two of the many protesters who would have likely been in prison if these reforms were in place for their trials (Chris and Andrew Hilliard). We will hear about the direct impact of the plans from the lawyers facing them. And we will be hearing from people who would have felt the cuts the hardest – the innocent clients that needed and received a good defense.

Our rally outside of Manchester Crown Court at 4:20 on the 21st of May, followed by our march at 5pm to the Palace Hotel in time to answer their consultation at 5:30 is our reply. With a solid voice, composed of many, declaring the community’s answer to the consultation questions together with a simple answer – No To Criminal Legal Aid Reforms!

The Facebook event – http://bit.ly/MancLAprotest
A5 flier – http://bit.ly/10ZCAYh
A4 Poster – http://bit.ly/103Nk9g
A3 Poster – http://bit.ly/YM2wu4

Defend The Right To Protest in Manchester

Yesterday saw yet another step in the growing campaign to defend the right to protest, with its first Manchester meeting.

 

Manchester has become a melting pot of the latest wave of protesters and activists, from the spearheading of anti-workfare protests to the massively strong Manchester UK Uncut group – all of which have been harassed, arrested, and a few attacked violently. With laws such as the much abused “Aggravated Trespass” law through to arresting someone for an astrixed out word (that may or may not have been an obscenity). It’s been clear for a while that the Metropolitan Police are not the only ones who are trying their hardest to deter peaceful protest.

 

The meeting, held at the Friends Meetinghouse in Manchester, included such speakers as; Dannie Grufferty (VP NUS) Jennifer Hilliard (Mother of Student Defendants), Steph Pike (UK Uncut) and Rachel from Defend The Right To Protest, covering a huge range of issues (from international police brutality to an arrestee’s rights).

 

The culmination of this is that we will be starting a Manchester chapter of Defend The Right To Protest, and working with as many groups as possible to defend our right to PARTY! Protest!