Categorized | Civil Liberties, Legal Aid

Labour on legal aid, judicial reviews and other legal matters

Labour on legal aid, judicial reviews and other legal matters

In an interview with the ‘Guardian’, Sadiq Khan, the shadow justice secretary, said he would reverse the coalition’s courtroom reforms if his party won the election. He pledged that Labour will repeal restrictions on judicial review and make it easier for people to challenge government decisions they believe are unlawful.

Parliamentary battles over judicial review – a means of questioning the legality of decisions made by government or local authorities – resulted in peers, including rebel Tories, repeatedly defeating the coalition. The legislation, eventually passed last month in the Criminal Justice and Courts Act, introduced additional financial liabilities, measures to forcibly identify those who support litigation and resulted in peers, including rebel Tories, repeatedly defeating the coalition.

Khan said: “I’m really worried about the government’s attack on judicial review. When I was a lawyer, I used judicial review to challenge public authorities. When I became a minister, I accepted that judicial review was a pain in the backside: civil servants had to check and double-check. It may have been a nuisance but it’s a very important safeguard. So I will reverse all the changes the government has made. It’s important that the executive respects the powers citizens have to hold us to account.”

But crucially he admitted Labour could not reinstate £600m of legal aid cuts imposed by the government.

He said that one legal aid priority will be to review the eligibility test that victims of domestic violence must pass to obtain legal aid to pay for representation. “I speak to lawyers who say they have clients who come in to see them, say they have suffered abuse and are told they have to provide evidence,” said Khan. “The clients often leave the office and never return. That worries me. So I’m looking at what we can do to tackle this. If there was one legal aid change to reverse, this would be the one.”

Responding to the Public Accounts Committee evidence session on legal aid, he said: “There are now parts of the country where people are struggling to access valuable legal advice. And the 30% rise in litigants in person and the drastic fall in mediation assessments mean that many of the government’s predicted savings have simply shifted to other departments.”

On human rights legislation he said: “The idea of abolishing the HRA in the 800th centenary year of Magna Carta is ridiculous. We are going to stay as signatories to the European convention on human rights.”

Much now depends on the outcome of the Court of Appeal’s judgement on arguments from the Law Society and practitioner groups the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association and London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association against Chris Grayling’s decision to press ahead with two-tier contracts for criminal legal aid. Government plans could result in some of the most vulnerable people being denied access to legal representation when they are accused of a crime.

Last week, after a two day hearing, the Court of Appeal reserved judgement, which they promised to try to deliver before Easter. An injunction to the tender process for duty contracts has been extended until judgment is given.

This post was written by:

- who has written 462 posts on Upper Case – The Anya Legal Journal.

Mike Gribbin is a retired Civil Servant with wide experience, including the drafting and implementation of Parliamentary legislation and regulations. He is the editor of “Criminal Offences Handbook”, a uniquely comprehensive guide to more than one thousand ways to fall foul of UK criminal law. He is Editor of the Upper Case Legal Journal and has been writing blog posts for the past eight years.

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