Open Letter To Chris Grayling (SOS for Justice) - Save Legal Aid- Save Access to Justice
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As law students we are learning about fundamental principles such as equality, access to justice and the rule of law, yet we don’t see these principles reflected in our government’s policies. Instead we perceive fierce attacks on fundamental rights in the form of legal aid cuts, which risk turning the justice system into a privilege for only the wealthy to access.
Not only have your actions been unjustifiable and unreasonable, but unconstitutional and illegal as well. The courts have ruled that the barriers erected by our government under LASPO 2012 to block legal aid access are unlawful. The Court of Appeal found that the Legal Aid Agency illegally refused funding to individuals fighting deportation. The evidential time limits imposed on legal aid applications of domestic violence victims have dangerously restricted access to justice and failed to protect vulnerable women and children. Your attacks on judicial review clearly show your unwillingness to be held accountable by the population that put you in power. The Public Accounts Committee report has outlined the extent of incompetence and inhumanity rife at the heart of the justice department, and its failure to collect sufficient evidence prior to implementing the crippling legal aid cuts. It is clear that you pushed through these devastating cuts indiscriminately and with the sole objective of cutting costs.
The legal aid cuts are driving away talented and competent lawyers from criminal law and areas of civil law reliant on state funding. While pro bono work is important in providing legal assistance, it should not and does not replace focused quality legal advice. We are concerned by the path this government is taking of privatising crucial services and establishing barriers to judicial oversight of public services. We are all the more concerned about the ideological drive behind these cuts, which amount to an attack on the poor and on everyone’s fundamental human rights.
While denying those in need access to legal advice you are promoting the UK government as a bastion of justice, human rights and democracy, as evidenced through the shameless parade of hypocrisy in the form of the Global Law Summit.
We demand that you deliver fundamental guarantees to protect the future and independence of our justice system by repealing LASPO 2012 and introducing a meaningful consultation process to protect access to justice in the UK.
NB- THIS IS A JOINT OPEN LETTER CREATED BY HALDANE STUDENT SOCIETY OF SOCIALIST LAWYERS AND STUDENTS FOR LEGAL AID.
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