As expected, criminal legal aid has also come under attack from the government and the fight to secure as much legal aid in this area as possible continues. Representation before the courts for those accused of crime is a basic, fundamental requirement of a true democracy. If you are concerned about the way we are heading, I would urge you to sign the petition at Justice Alliance petition to save access to Justice.
The Steve Cornforth blog takes a look at the impact that cuts are likely to have on the diversity of the legal profession. A likely outcome is a profession beyond the reach of all but those from very wealthy backgrounds. Furthermore, the Birmingham Law Society has said that many firms of solicitor's firms will cease to be viable in the event that the cuts go ahead. This is a tragic picture which will be reflected throughout the country. I was also struck by this tweet:
Tories and Lib Dems combine to vote away Legal Aid for cases which challenge Government http://t.co/D355WaS8WP
— Andy Slaughter MP (@hammersmithandy) January 17, 2014
The other very pervasive theme of the past 12 months has been the system of protection for human rights in this country. Yet again, the attack has come from within the government but certain judges have chosen to join in the chorus. There is no doubt that this will be a major topic for quite some time to come. It is worthy of note that the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed the view that austerity measures across Europe have undermined human rights - see Council of Europe
“Many governments in Europe imposing austerity measures have forgotten about their human rights obligations, especially the social and economic rights of the most vulnerable, the need to ensure access to justice, and the right to equal treatment. Regrettably, international lenders have also neglected to incorporate human rights considerations into many of their assistance programmes,” said today Nils Muižnieks, Commissioner for Human Rights, while releasing a research paper about the impact of the economic crisis on the protection of human rights."
In September, the Scottish referendum on independence will be held. In the event of a YES vote, there will be some major and difficult constitutional questions ahead. I do not think that a divorce is desirable and would prefer to have seen a federal solution to this question but those are only personal views and the idea of a federation has found little traction in political circles even though the Westminster Parliament has created many successful federations throughout history (e.g. Australia, Canada).
I hope to be able to follow developments within our legal system and other interesting stories for some time to come. There will be much to consider and write about. The blog hopes to remain true to its original purposes: to discuss, inform, explain but never to dictate and will continue to try to Speak for Fairness - (Pro Aequitate Dicere).