Its 8.45pm on Tuesday 30th June 2015. There is barely any of Tuesday left so not much time for any Tuesday Truth
Tomorrow the Legal Aid Practitioners Group celebrates their Legal aid Lawyer of the Year award 2015. I went last year and recognised that at a time of great despair for legal aid practitioners and their clients this was one night to celebrate what was good about legal aid, to acknowledge the many vulnerable people that legal aid helped, to applaud those practitioners both solicitors and barristers who gave up their time for modest recompense to fight for the underdog.
Tomorrow night I am honoured to be receiving a special achievement award with Bill Waddington, Robin Murray and Jon Black for defending legal aid. We accept this award on behalf of everyone who has volunteered to fight the atrocious government attack on access to justice. There have been many people who have given up their time and this battle has gone on not for weeks/ months but years. We have been nominated by some of those people and we have worked with incredibly talented individuals on our committees.
However on the one day when legal aid is honoured, when we and many more deserving candidates are thanked for their tireless work the government will continue with their relentless attack on legal aid and access to justice.
The government will introduce another 8.75% cut to solicitor fees tomorrow, a further kick in the face for legal aid. 17.5% in just over a year with further cuts in January. Insufficient resources to protect those from state investigation
Finally many solicitors and barristers are saying no, this cannot go on and are refusing to work at the new rates.
There have been meetings all over the country which have seen solicitors and barristers’ two parts of the same profession unite to protect access to justice.
Michael Turner former Chair of the CBA said at a meeting at Garden Court chambers that this was not about the bar or solicitors it was about an attack on our justice system and of course we all share a responsibility to fight that.
Tomorrow and for the immediate period there may be widespread disruption around the country in the administration of justice. Solicitors and barristers take this action with a heavy heart, but the short term pain is sadly necessary for the long term gain of a proper robust justice system.
The meeting at Garden Court was well attended and had many valuable contributions from solicitors and barristers.
Many speeches began “I am not a radical but……….” In relation to protest action.
Greg Powell a former legal aid lawyer of the year began his remarks with “I am a radical and……..
Whether the speaker considered that they were a radical or not the message was the same, we cannot sit back and take this anymore.
So when you read this short Tuesday truth (it’s almost a Wednesday wander) I urge you to think about what we do , who benefits and whether you are a radical or not, as a lawyer advising yourself, you can see this is not about austerity, it’s about removing legal aid a fundamental right in an effective and fair democracy.