Tag Archive | "Richard Burgon"

Prisons and Courts Bill


“Prison is about punishing people who have committed heinous crimes, but it should be a place where offenders are given the opportunity to turn their lives around,” said the justice secretary, Liz Truss, introducing the Prisons and Courts bill last Thursday.

“I want our prisons to be places of discipline, hard work, and self-improvement, where staff are empowered to get people off drugs, improve their English and maths to get a job on release,” she said.

Under a new framework, the justice secretary will be accountable to parliament for progress in reforming offenders. Meanwhile, governors will take control of budgets for education, employment, and health. The government hopes the measures will drive down the £15bn annual cost of reoffending. This legislation underpins measures in the recently published Prison Safety and Reform White Paper. Read the full story

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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.

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