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Time to take a stand

The state has a responsibility to enshrine the principles of justice in legislation as well as establishing and maintaining the means of its implementation.

This government and its predecessors have increasingly failed in both these respects. They speak gobbledygook about human rights and the two most central figures – the Justice Minister and the Home Secretary – have recently displayed an appalling lack of understanding in their wild hostility to the European Court of Human Rights. The cuts on all fronts not only withdraw benefits but also emasculate the most vulnerable.

Whole areas are now without any legal aid or only a skeleton resource.

None of this is primarily about lawyers, although they are affected, it is about a basic provision – Justice – the very substance of what is left of our democracy. No fundamental rights are worth the paper they are written upon unless they can be enforced especially against overweening and corrupt authorities.

All this is known and has been foreshadowed over the last decade. The proclaimed agenda is the privatisation and fragmentation of all public services. The thinly veiled rationalisation now is the crippling debt brought about by a freewheeling private finance sector. There are alternatives which George Osborne vehemently opposes such as a financial transaction tax.

Now is the time to alert and collectivise the public conscience to take a stand. It cannot be achieved by pockets of protest and opposition within the legal profession alone. Negotiating for the crumbs that might fall from the table is also not an option. There has been, with small exceptions, an intransigence and almost dismissive contempt by government towards the plight of the citizen.

The writing is on the wall for all to see and has to be erased by the determination and singular purpose of civic society. There are presently many networks available to facilitate this – AVAAZ and 38 DEGREES are two fine examples which serve constituencies of millions. They have already brought about seismic shifts in opinion and policy.

The Coalition has a limited shelf life and it’s misplaced objectives can be removed by concerted effort.

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Michael Mansfield QC Posted by on May 9, 2013. Filed under Human rights,LASPO,Legal aid. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

4 Responses to Time to take a stand

  1. Pingback: Defend the Right to Protest – ‘Time to Take a Stand’ – Michael Mansfield QC on Legal Aid

  2. Anonymous Reply

    May 11, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    I totally agree with you that this government does speak gobbledygook about human rights. Even those MPs who (plausibly) claim to support human rights don’t seem to have an instinct for it. Perhaps they rely too heavily on their Tesco guide to HRs and Poundland moral compass! If Justice4All and Sound Off for Justice hadn’t been so arrogant about their campaigning capabilities and realised that without public support they would lose, we might not be in this position. Sound Off for Justice wasn’t a campaign. The Law Society paid an expensive marketing company to advertise an idea to lawyers and politicians. Lawyers are not natural campaigners. They don’t understand the dynamics of grass roots campaigning. 38 Degrees have got a grasp of online grass roots campaigning. However, they rely on the public to suggest and support campaigns. Unfortunately, the public are unlikely to suggest or support a campaign on a subject that only hits the headlines when it is reported as an expensive waste of tax payer’s money that is being taken advantage of by dangerous terrorists. I joined Justice4All when it first started, but was not allowed to join the decision making committees. I signed Sound Off for Justice petitions, but was not allowed to do anything more than that. Vulnerable members of the public will suffer for lawyers arrogance and lawyers failure to off-set Tory propaganda and engage the public.

  3. Pingback: Keep calm, stay united | Guy Gozem

  4. Anonymous Reply

    May 17, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    I totally agree, and would add that most people do not seem to appreciate that this is NOT a party issue. Human rights are the rights of all of us. If government plans for criminal justice go ahead we will all be deprived of the ability to remind the government that it works for us, not the other way round.

    This government has repeatedly launched attacks upon the poor and disenfranchised in a bid to save relatively small amounts of money. Apart from the economic effect, which is to depress demand in the economy still further, this is doomed to failure. We cannot get out of this mess by soaking the poor, because they just don’t have enough money. The rich do, and it is the rich who caused this problem. Indeed, it is inequality which has largely led to it. Collosal and growing disparity in incomes creates a lack of demand, and we all suffer. Except the super-rich, because they couldn’t spend their incomes (one can hardly call them “earnings”) if they lived to be a million. Which is the problem in a nutshell. We need more money filtering down to the poorer sections of society, but it won’t happen under this administration.

    They know what’s needed, but they can’t bring themselves to do it. Instead, they concentrate on what they are willing to do – gay marriage and the like, which are not unworthy but won’t solve the problems we face.

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