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Tag Archive | "Lord Bach"

Independence of the UK legal profession

The International Bar Association (IBA) presidential taskforce has presented a report which identifies a risk to the independence of the legal profession in the UK.

This is because the oversight regulator, the Legal Services Board (LSB), is a non-departmental public body whose majority lay board is appointed by a government minister, the secretary of state for justice. As the accounting officer for the organisation, the CEO of the LSB has a reporting role, ultimately to the secretary of state for justice.

Law Society chief executive Catherine Dixon said: “We must never take the independence of the legal profession for granted. In the UK legal professional privilege (LPP) is under attack. LPP is a cornerstone of our justice system in that it ensures a person can speak confidentially to their solicitor without the risk that confidentiality will be breached by a third party, including the State.”

She added: “A strong and vibrant legal profession is vital to ensuring that everyone has access to justice and that the rule of law is upheld. This important report identifies areas where legal independence is under attack across the world including in the UK.”

Dixon pointed out: “It is notable that in a recent LSB report outlining its vision of regulation this government body failed to recognise the importance of an independent legal profession, which if lost would undermine the very fabric of our society and our ability to maintain the rule of law. It is imperative in this context, and in light of the many threats to legal independence around the world, that the legal profession stands together.”

Access to justice, an essential ingredient of the rule of law, has suffered a serious blow with the attack on legal aid. At the Labour conference in Liverpool, the party’s shadow justice secretary, Richard Burgon, confirmed that a future Labour government would increase legal aid spending and abolish employment tribunal fees. The fees were introduced in 2013 and have been blamed for a 70% fall in employment claims.

According to the ‘Gazette’ it is understood that the pledge, expected to cost between £15m and £20m a year, has been approved by the shadow treasury and will be in any future Labour manifesto.

Also at the Liverpool conference, Burgon told a fringe meeting that Labour would increase funding to the legal aid budget, though he did not give exact figures. It is also understood that Jeremy Corbyn is sympathetic to the argument that legal aid funding should increase.

Burgon said: “Everything that will run through our approach will be about returning to the vision of the Attlee government, which placed legal aid as one of the four pillars of the welfare state. We have to avoid attempts to degrade legal aid and recipients of legal aid. Of course we would put more money in the legal aid budget to give it the respect and finance it deserves.”

Earlier in the conference, Lord Bach, who is leading the Labour commission to put together the party’s justice policies, said legal aid funding should be made available for inquests. The chief coroner has called for bereaved families to be given exceptional funding for legal representation in cases where the state has agreed to provide separate representation for one or more interested parties.

Posted in Law UpdatesComments (0)

Labour’s review of the government’s legal aid reforms

When Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour party last September one of his first acts was to announce an immediate review of legal aid.

He said: “I have asked Willy Bach, the former Shadow Attorney General, to undertake an immediate review of the assault on Legal Aid by the Government over the last five years. This has resulted in many of our fellow citizens, often the poor and marginalised, not being able to get advice or representation when they are faced with legal problems such as housing, welfare benefits, debt and employment. Many vital advice services, including Law Centres, have had to close.

Read the full story

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“Access to justice should be considered a fundamental right” – Corbyn

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has called on the government to initiate an immediate review of cuts to civil legal aid.

The coalition government reduced the scope of civil legal aid through the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (Laspo) and has committed to a review of the policy by April 2018.

The reforms reduced spending on civil legal aid by £300m a year, but the National Audit Office last year said the wider costs to the public sector had not been factored in because the Ministry of Justice did not anticipate how people would respond to the changes.

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Posted in Civil Law, Legal AidComments (0)

LASPO implemented – or not?

From Monday a range of new criminal offences and sentences introduced in LASPO came into effect.

The new offences include a mandatory life sentence for people convicted of a second very serious sexual or violent offence, aggravated knife possession, causing serious injury by dangerous driving, measures to strengthen community sentences and tough new sentences for hate crime. Justice secretary Chris Grayling said: “Criminals should be in no doubt they will be punished for their crimes, with those who commit the most serious offences receiving the most severe sentences.” Read the full story

Posted in Criminal Justice, Law Updates, Legal AidComments (0)

Game, set and match

The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill bounced back to the House of Lords on Monday for consideration of Commons’ amendments. Members of the Lords voted eight times during the debate, and in scoreboard terms, the result for the government was played 8, won 4, lost 3, with one sort of score draw. Read the full story

Posted in Civil Law, Criminal Justice, Legal AidComments (0)

Legal Aid bill defeat number nine

The government’s controversial legal aid bill has suffered its ninth defeat in the House of Lords. The bill has now suffered more defeats in the Lords than either the health or welfare reform bills.

On Monday, the third day of Report, the government seemed to have hit on a strategy to reduce potential defeats by the simple expedient of not starting the debate until after six o’clock, a ploy bitterly objected to by the opponents. Read the full story

Posted in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Law Updates, Legal AidComments (0)

More government defeats on legal aid

Wednesday was the second day of Report stage for the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill in the Lords. Four divisions took place during the debate, resulting in three government defeats and one government win.

Baroness Doocey (Liberal Democrat) moved amendment 11. She said: “The amendment concerns the proposals in the Bill to remove legal aid for appeals against official decisions about entitlement to welfare benefit. These proposals will seriously inhibit claimants’ access to justice, will not deliver the savings that the Government hope for and will create very serious problems for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.” Read the full story

Posted in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Legal AidComments (0)

LASPO in the Lords

Line-by-line scrutiny of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill continued on Tuesday in the House of Lords. Members continued where they left off before the Christmas recess when four amendments to clause 1, which defines the Lord Chancellor’s responsibilities, were debated and then withdrawn without being put to the vote.

Lord Beecham moved another amendment to clause 1 which called upon the Lord Chancellor to Read the full story

Posted in Civil Law, Law Updates, Legal AidComments (0)

Sound Off for Justice

You’ve probably seen the press adverts already. They ask if you will be silenced by cuts to Legal aid. “The Government is planning cuts that will deny millions of people access to justice. Don’t let this happen. Sound Off for Justice.” Read the full story

Posted in Civil Liberties, Legal AidComments (0)

Legal aid training scheme for young lawyers axed

Legal aid minister Jonathan Djanogly has announced plans to scrap a £2.6 million per year training contract grant scheme. Since the scheme began in 2002 more than 750 trainees have benefited from grants of over £20,000 each to help cover their training fees and salary. The Legal Services Commission gave the grants to legal aid firms to allow them to Read the full story

Posted in Criminal Justice, Legal AidComments (0)

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