Friday, 24 April 2015

The Vote for Justice Rally

A large contingent from the Wainwright & Cummins Criminal Law team attended the Vote for Justice rally yesterday afternoon at Westminster Central Hall. It is a beautiful venue, with a high, domed ceiling, and it provided a lovely setting for what turned out to be an afternoon of inspiration and collaboration.

The rally aimed to highlight issues relating to access to justice and make the justice system a general election issue. Many notable speakers addressed the rally including two retired Judges from the Court of Appeal, Sir Alan Moses and Sir Anthony Hooper; Raphael Rowe, an investigative journalist and victim of a miscarriage of justice; Baroness Helena Kennedy QC; and the inimitable Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty. The event was ably compèred by Robin Murray, the Vice Chair of the CLSA and maker of terrible but endearing jokes.

I found that two of the most powerful speeches came from Yvonne Kramo, a third six pupil at Garden Court Chambers, who strongly articulated the fears and concerns of young lawyers wanting to enter into legal aid work but worried about its financial viability; and Joe Mensah-Dankwah, owner of Foresters Solicitors, who poignantly reflected the experiences of many in the room when dealing with vulnerable, difficult or emotional clients. For these clients their lawyer may be so much more than just someone who helps with their legal issues: they are a support system and a reliable presence in what is often a very chaotic life.

We also very much enjoyed the ‘Legal Aid Team’ film, which is a funny and charming cartoon about the importance of legal aid and what it does to assist vulnerable people. In it, legal aid lawyers are superheroes, the Legal Aid Team, fighting against the supervillain (perhaps unsurprisingly the current Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling) who is imposing his ‘Cuts Reform Action Plan’, or ‘CRAP’, as it might be described. This, says the cartoon, will lead to the destruction of the Legal Aid Team and to a future of robot lawyers, unable or unwilling to represent clients, especially those with complex, demanding, or unpopular cases. The film hopes to avert this catastrophe by encouraging the general public to consider access to justice and legal aid when casting their vote on 7th May.

The rally left us with a renewed sense of the importance of access to justice, and of the branches of the profession working together to support each other during this difficult time.

The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the firm or its partners.


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