Friday, 20 February 2015

Access to Justice Bulletin

1.      Judicial Review of Crime Contract Tendering

Wainwright & Cummins were very sorry and disappointed to hear of the refusal by the High Court of the Judicial Reviews by the Law Society and the CLSA & LCCSA against the two-tier Crime Contracts which the Lord Chancellor is attempting to introduce.

To many this might seem like a petty fight over small details of Criminal Legal Aid. But in fact it goes right to the heart of the crucial matter of Access to Justice. It is clear to those of us supporting the Judicial Review that the new, two-tier contracts could only have a worrying impact on the ability of clients to get proper legal representation. It will lead to many Criminal Law firms being forced to close, and to others forced to consolidate into ever larger and larger firms, losing any concept of small and medium-sized firms that are rooted in the local community. Moreover, even if those firms that have merged were to obtain a contract, there is no guarantee that they will continue to remain sustainable following the draconian cuts to the budget.

We are maintaining hope that an appeal to the Court of Appeal, to be heard on 27/02/15, may be successful yet; and we are proud of all of the hard work that has gone into the Judicial Review thus far. The profession has come together over this issue, and that, if nothing else, has been a positive outcome of the situation.

2.      The Global Law Summit

This year is the 800th anniversary of that foundational document of rights and access to justice: Magna Carta. Many events and celebrations are being held across the country to remind us of the importance of this articulation of access to justice in any fair society.

In particular, the Lord Chancellor has decided to host a ‘Global Law Summit’ between 23-25 February here in London. It will, supposedly, both celebrate Magna Carta and show the world the face of the modern British legal system

Critics have pointed out many flaws with the Summit, not least of which is that the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta is in fact in June. Some might suggest that the Lord Chancellor has unwisely placed the Global Law Summit in February, rather than the correct anniversary of Magna Carta, in order to capitalise on it prior to the upcoming General Election in May.

The event is, to many, beginning to look more and more like a celebration of only very specific areas of the British legal system: specifically, commercial and corporate City law firms. It is not celebrating the concept that access to justice should be available to all members of the public, whether wealthy or not. It disappoints that the Summit has not been designed to be inclusive, both in terms of its subject matter and its invitees.

Regrettably, tickets to the Global Law Summit cost £1750 per head if bought on the day. That beyond anything seems to confirm that the Summit is, a) primarily aimed at corporate lawyers and business law, and b) is inaccessible to Legal Aid lawyers.

There is, however, a wonderful alternative to the Global Law Summit which is being embraced by the Legal Aid community. It is fittingly called the Not the Global Law Summit, and consists of various events supporting access to justice including:
  • The ‘Relay for Rights’, from Runnymede on 21/02/15 to Old Palace Yard in Westminster at 1pm on 23/02/15;
  • ‘Stand Up for Legal Aid’, a night of comedy and music on 23/02/15, at the Union Chapel in Islington.

We strongly suggest that anyone interested in Magna Carta, legal aid, or access to justice for the most vulnerable among us, should come along to the Not the Global Law Summit and show your support.


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