Article from the Haldane Society on legal aid cuts and a note that their commission into legal aid is due to report back on 14 June 2011.
"The 26th March 2011 ‘March for an alternative’ demonstration was so big that many of us failed to find The Haldane Society’s banner. We still marched, and I was struck by how many lawyers turned out. It’s new to see lawyers defining themselves as public sector workers.
There’s also a new feel to the campaigns to save legal aid. Outside the right-wing world of The Daily Mail, the ‘fat cat lawyer’ jibes are beginning to disappear. Justice 4 All and The Law Society’s Sound Off for Justice are getting the message across that defending legal aid is not about defending lawyers, but about access to justice. The phrase ‘fourth pillar of the welfare state’ has resonance.
There were over 5,000 responses to the Green Paper ‘Proposals for the Reform of Legal Aid in England and Wales’ – we can presume the responses were overwhelmingly opposed to the proposals. Those who responded included Judges, MPs, the legal profession, advice agencies, voluntary sector groups and individuals. At the time of writing, the Government’s response is due to be published in early June and then the Parliamentary fight begins. We need to remain geared up to lobby and campaign against the proposed £350 million cuts.
Haldane’s Commission of Inquiry into Legal Aid is due to report on 14th June 2011. We hope that the report is well-timed. The Commission was organised jointly with our friends Young Legal Aid Lawyers. As set out in Connor Johnston’s YLAL column on page 11, it comprised three independent panelists: Dr Evan Harris, former Liberal Democrat MP, Diana Holland, Assistant General Secretary of Unite the Union, and Canon Nicholas Sagovsky, former canon at Westminster Abbey. They have heard from practitioners, campaigning organisations and, most importantly, people who have benefited from legal aid and have also studied the case for cutting legal aid. ....."