The Future of Justice

Dated:   

On the opening day of the Labour Party Conference 2011, Simpson Millar LLP hosted a meeting to discuss the future of justice. The meeting heard of the threat to the justice system and the effect proposed changes to it may have on everyone, especially the most vulnerable people in our society. Partner Bryan Nott chaired the meeting that heard from speakers including Sadiq Khan MP, Shadow Justice Secretary, Kamaljeet Jandu, GMB National Equality Officer and Angela Jackman of Simpson Millar LLP.

To begin the meeting Kamaljett Jandu highlighted his concerns for employees who are on low wages. Whilst they will continue to face challenges in work which will only increase, and employment rights dropping they will also face the prospect of the withdrawal of legal aid. This could leave many parents with the stark choice of paying for legal advice or providing for themselves and their family. With the announcement of increased unemployment figures and the withdrawal of funding for Community Law Centres he questioned where vulnerable and exploited people can turn to for legal advice.

Future of Justice

Sadiq Khan MP continued with this point and the proposed legal aid cuts which could mount up to £350 million from the budget. He commented that there may soon be a time when legal aid lawyers are a thing of the past. If Labour had won the election he said that whilst savings would have been made they would not have focussed cuts on social welfare advice and representation. He also stated that the current Government will go too far, too fast with cuts and any consideration of alternatives and changes would have to be weighed against the need for all to have access to the justice system. This has recently been highlighted in the high profile case brought by Milly Dowler’s family. They would have been unable to pursue the hacking of Milly's phone by the News of the World if 'no win no fee' conditional fee agreements had been unavailable to them.

Angela Jackman made the point that legal aid cuts are an attack on some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Some believe that legal aid lawyers have for many years been ‘riding the legal aid gravy train’, the reality is very different. Angela said that payments to legal aid lawyers have remained stagnant for a long time and she is worried by the increasing number of legal aid firms and advice centres closing across the UK and with more to follow. It is making it extremely difficult for individuals to find someone willing to accept a case and to give them access to the vital legal help they need.

Angela called for a renewed relationship between Labour and social welfare lawyers. With large companies entering the legal sector she raised an issue as to whether there should be a requirement for these companies to support social welfare advice. Ultimately if a socially inclusive society is to be achieved there needs to be a strong and active legal advice provision.

Conclusion


All speakers came to a consensus that it is important for open discussions between everyone involved in standing up for justice. They must work together to lobby Government and to bring greater awareness to a topic which would affect the most vulnerable people of society whilst ensuring all have access to a justice system.

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