There is a demonstration on Monday, June 17th at the Civil Justice Centre, Bridge Street, Manchester to defend access to justice – it is part of a series of strikes by justice sector workers by staff in magistrates’, crown and county courts, tribunals and other agencies across the UK. The PCS together with the probation officers’ union NAPO, the Prison Officers’ Association and the Police Federation, have launched a report looking at the impact of privatisation and the austerity cuts on our justice system. More HERE.
See below for a letter calling for your support on Monday.
These Aren’t Just Cuts
Justice Minister Chris Grayling is making the most damaging attacks on civil justice in living memory. On 1st April this year legal aid for advice and representation was removed from large sections of the most vulnerable in our society. Citizens Advice, Law Centres and legal aid solicitors are now unable to offer legal aid to those needing advice and representation on debt, and most immigration, housing, benefits, private family law or employment problems. The Government itself admits that 600,000 cases each year are no longer funded. This follows a 10% cut already made across the board in legal aid rates.
At the same time the civil servants employed to administer the justice system have seen their pay frozen and their pensions attacked – they have to pay more for their pension, work longer, and will get less in retirement – while the Government plans further cuts in rates paid to legal aid lawyers. Just as tuition fees discourage young people going to university, these attacks reduce the possibility for young lawyers going into social welfare law. The civil service union, the PCS, sees the cuts in their members’ pay and pensions as the prelude to privatisation – with more chances of incompetent and inhumane privateers such as G4S picking up contracts while reducing services.
On top of these public funding cuts, advice organisations are closing or cutting their services. This is just when people face major changes to their social rights and need advice more than ever.
The Government says the cuts won’t matter much. People can just sort it out for themselves. The top Judge in this country has said this could lead to people taking the law into their own hands.
We say that ‘these aren’t just cuts’. Not only are they financial reductions in the living standards of the workers (court staff and legal aid lawyers alike). But also they are unfair restrictions to the access to justice that makes a civilised society. The Government is heading towards a society where only those who can pay can receive services – whether legal advice, health, education or anything else.
We call on the Government to stop these unjust cuts. We ask staff, lawyers, everyone who believes in public services, to join us – MONDAY 17th JUNE at 1.00 pm at the Civil Justice Centre (CJC), Bridge Street, Manchester to defend access to justice – for all. More HERE.
- David Vincent Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), Ministry of Justice, Greater Manchester Branch
- Denise McDowell, Director, Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit
- George Brown, Shazia Khan, John Nicholson, Gita Patel, Mark Schwenk, Barristers,
- Maria Rushworth, Practice Manager, Kenworthys Chambers, Salford
- Jared Ficklin, Andy Fitzpatrick, Mark George QC, Vijay Jagadesham, Ian Macdonald QC, Lucy Mair, Camille Warren, Pete Weatherby QC, Barristers, Garden Court North Chambers, Manchester
- Nazmun Ismail, Mikhil Karnik, Benjamin Knight, Barristers, Central Chambers, Manchester
- Jean Betteridge, Chair, Access to Advice
Jon is editor of the Justice Gap. He is a freelance journalist. Jon's books include The First Miscarriage of Justice (Waterside Press, 2014), The Justice Gap (LAG, 2009) and People Power (Daily Telegraph/LawPack, 2008). Jon is a journalism lecturer at Winchester University and a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln. He is twice winner of the Bar Council's journalism award (2015 and 2005) and is shortlisted for this year's Criminal Justice Alliance's journalism award