The national protest against legal aid cuts was a compelling rally to attend, running on a national scale in towns and cities across London and Wales, and also in one of the more apt locations, outside the Supreme Court in London.
With a turnout of around 50 people in London and many surrounding spectators, the rally benefited from over 3000 charities who have endorsed the cause on a national scale. The purpose and objective of the protest was to campaign against what can only be described as debilitating cuts to legal aid which promise to hinder access to legal representation.
What is deeply concerning is that in a democratic society where human rights should be considered fundamental, the UK will no longer accommodate many individuals whose rights are being compromised – the very notion of basic human rights irrespective of age, race, nationality and financial status will be brutally betrayed.
Whilst this was a numerically small protest, the atmosphere boasted a strong united voice which had key organisations present including Justice for All, Young Legal Aid Lawyers, the Women’s Resource Centre and the Legal Action Group. The Key speakers were Marylyn Haines-Evans from the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, Steve Hynes from the Legal Action Group, Margie Butler from the Mary Ward Legal Centre and Andy Slaughter Labour MP of Hammersmith.
Rule of law
Interesting points were raised in relation to the rule of law by Andy Slaughter, which is being threatened by the Government’s proposals. If legal aid cuts are to be enforced, the Government will be in effect be illegitimately exercising its power and will be undermining the due process principle which dictates that the government must respect all legal rights that are owed to persons.
Another point raised by Margie Butler was that the process of cutting legal aid will encourage criminalisation due to lack of access to the legal system, and that this would also have serious implications on public confidence in the system.
I spoke to a law graduate studying to practice as a solicitor at the rally. He felt there will undoubtedly be more litigants in person as a result of the cuts and that this would ultimately lengthen court proceedings and will have a negative impact on the work load of HMCS staff whilst also straining practitioners and the Judiciary.
As a Court advocate who representing clients in the County Court, I also find the future of legal access and an ever increasing amount of litigants in porson, seriously alarming.
A final thought…
In conclusion it will be a sad day for Legal Services Commission when legal aid is cut and it will effectively destroy the notion they published on their website in 2009,
“Legal aid gives people who can least afford it access to justice, which provides a vital safety net and makes our society a civilised one.”