Monday, 31 October 2011

"Rights" without access to justice are not rights at all


Recently Lord Pannick said in a debate in the House of Lords: ‘There are countries where the Government win all their cases in court – but they are not places in which any of us would wish to live.’ Well, buckle up people, because the legal aid bill before parliament is a last call to all passengers on a one-way ticket to just such a country.

This is an extract from an excellent article describing how the legal aid cuts will effectively remove access to justice from the vast majority of people.  If you read nothing else, please read  Justice Gap - Jules Carey -  "What price liberty?  Too much for legal aid."

The organisation Liberty have said that ‘if the bill is passed without substantial amendment, big business, government and other members of a rich and powerful elite will be able to act with impunity’.  How true this will be.  The government claims
that a £350m p.a. cut to the £2bn legal aid budget is necessary for economic reasons.  The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill will cut legal aid extremely deeply and  "Rights" without access to justice (i.e. the means to enforce those rights) are not rights at all.  The coalition government has, in reality, mounted a massive attack on the liberties of the people under the umbrella of the economic crisis.

The Pink Tape blog looks at whether Judicial Training will ameliorate the problems caused by a surge in litigants-in-person.  The answer is not encouraging and such litigants - usually ordinary people fighting for their rights - will often be facing the power of government with a bottomless purse and no restrictions on the lawyers they can hire to fight their corner.  Litigants in person are at an enormous disadvantage.  The law is difficult and it is, as Chief Justice Coke said many years ago in words aimed at King James I:

” … an art which requires long study and experience, before that a man can attain to the cognizance of it; …”  Case of Prohibitions del Roy [1607] EWHC J23 (KB); 77ER 1342; 12 Co rep 63.

It is utterly wrong to expect the ordinary citizen to represent themselves before courts and tribunals with their complex law and procedural rules.  "Rights" without access to justice cannot be properly described as rights at all.

Addendum 1st November:  See the short item in The Guardian  - No win, no fee.  Our only route to justice. and also "Milly Dowler parents join Yeates's landlord to oppose legal aid cuts."   The Law Society Gazette 13th October 2011 highlighted the rise in numbers of litigants in person and the problems some of them face.

1 comment:

  1. For the last 22 years I have fought to clear my name, where, in 2002 my conviction was found 'unlawful'; and in 2010, it was found 'unsafe'.

    I have been left with huge debts incurred from trying to clear my name where Appeal Court verdicts of unlawful, and unsafe, are just not enough.

    Since my unlawful conviction was reversed in March 2010 I have now have to fight the Justice Minister and his Dept. without legal advice or representation.

    I copy below one sentence contained within the Dept of Justice's submission to the NI Courts , 11 August 2011

    "If Walsh's application succeeds it may gain a higher profile and raise questions over other convictions."

    I am now fighting a class action without help and have no knowledge of who else the Justice Minister is aware of who else has been wrongly convicted; or indeed if they remain imprisoned?

    You can read more on my case at