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The Law Society Manifesto 2010

The Law Society Manifesto 2010

Now is the time for manifestos. Not to be outdone, the Law Society has issued its own. Strictly non-party political of course, but nevertheless aimed fairly and squarely at the current hustings. The Society recognises that: “The party in government following the general election will face a hostile and difficult environment. In facing that challenge, it must not forget the basic needs for justice and the rule of law. The Law Society calls on all political parties to publicly support four principles in their campaigning, policy development and – if elected – their actions over the next Parliament”.

The four principles are that Government will: uphold the rule of law by ensuring meaningful access to justice for all; will properly defend the rights of the people; will work for good governance and better law-making; and will support and encourage a strong and independent legal services sector for the benefit of all. There is no shortage of specifics. The Law Society calls on all parties to commit to maintaining legal aid eligibility at current levels; supporting the principles enshrined in the Human Rights Act; and the maintenance of the right to trial by jury. Among other matters it calls for support of the pivotal role of the defence solicitor in protecting the rights of the defendant and ensuring that the criminal justice process actually works on the ground; a review of the current focus on ‘out of court disposals’; and support for an open coroners system in which all inquests are held in public. In related matters the Law Society calls for the tax year to operate on a calendar basis (1 January – 31 December), with a self-assessment deadline of 30 September; applying fixed dates for the Pre-Budget Report and the Budget; and a debate about the future of Home Information Packs.

The manifesto states that: “In recent years, the UK criminal justice system has been subject to a constant barrage of new legislation and offences. A more cautious and structured approach to extending and reforming criminal law is required to prevent the criminal justice system being overwhelmed and police forces becoming overstretched by a constantly changing criminal code”. Such laws and initiatives have included limiting the costs recovered by acquitted defendants to the equivalent legal aid rates; means testing for legal aid funding in the crown court; the growth in the use of control orders in terrorism cases; and virtual courts, where defendants may not have face to face access to a defence lawyer.

In their joint introduction to the manifesto, Robert Heslett, President, and Desmond Hudson, Chief Executive, state that: “It is important that, in the rough and tumble of an election campaign, such principles are not forgotten. The Law Society, as the voice of the largest part of the legal sector, has a unique perspective on the issues affecting justice and the fabric of society. The Society presents this manifesto as its contribution to the public policy debate in the lead up to the general election of 2010”. The full text of the manifesto can be found at:

 http://www.lawsociety.org.uk/new/documents/2010/manifesto2010.pdf

This post was written by:

- who has written 460 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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