The Global Law Summit 2015 is heading for London. The importance of London as a centre of legal excellence cannot be denied though other locations keen to have the business of commercial disputes are developing such as Singapore. This stellar event - with several high profile speakers - seeks to exploit the fact that 2015 is the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta by King John. This document is generally seen as one of the foundation stones of the rule of law. It effectively asserts that those who rule must comply with the law. The Charter contains the famous statement - "We will sell to no man, we will not deny or defer to any man either Justice or Right." Before looking a little closer at the Law Summit, we should remind ourselves of some of the reality of the government's justice policies seen from the worm's-eye viewpoint of the citizen as opposed to the immensely wealthy world of international commercial business.
Judicial review at bay -
The Criminal Justice and Courts Bill has been at the so-called "ping pong" stage for some time - see post - Judicial Review at Bay The House of Lords "ping pong" session took place on 9th December and the House remained opposed to the government's plans to make access to judicial review more difficult. The debate may be read here. The matter returned to the House of Commons om 13th January when, as expected, the Secretary of State for Justice asked the House to reinstate the restrictions on judicial review. He successfully did so albeit with certain concessions - see Legal Business. The debate may be read here. The Commons also voted to extend to 30th March the time allowed for this Bill (known as a Carry Over Motion).
See the Public Law Project Parliamentary Briefing Paper on this topic.
Legal Aid axed - Under the coalition government, legal aid for the citizen has been severely curtailed. Austerity is the stated excuse but political ideology the more likely reason. This has resulted in a considerable increase in the number of litigants in person who, quite understandably, often struggle with difficult law and procedure.
Global Law Summit - the government is keen, for economic reasons, to attract high profile legal business into London and Ministers are clearly delighted that the Global Law Summit is to be held at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in February. The Summit's website notes that the event is being held in February to mark 800 years since the sealing of Magna Carta. "It is a unique opportunity to commemorate, celebrate and embrace 800 years of legal history which have inspired lawyers and non-lawyers alike for generations."
In a highly outspoken article in The Telegraph 8th January - The hypocrites have jumped aboard the Magna Carta bandwagon - Peter Oborne points out that the government has launched a systematic attack on the legal aid system which gives poor people access to the justice system. "The government changes ... run flatly contrary to Magna Carta." "So does the latest Criminal Justice Bill, with its vicious attack on judicial review, the main way in which arbitrary government decisions are held to account through the courts." "Most important of all, Mr Cameron is close to committing Britain to withdraw altogether from the European Convention on Human Rights, a document which entrenches the principles of Magna Carta in international law." The article summarises - " ... Mr Cameron's government has launched something close to an out-and-out attack on the rule of law. The idea that either he or his ministers give a damn for the principles that underlie Magna Carta is preposterous."
The Cameron government's "justice" policies are a disgrace in what should be a modern democracy. For my part, I see little chance of any different government reversing the cuts though some changes may be made. It is saddening to note that the sickening hypocrisy surrounding Global law Summit. For all but the wealthy, justice in England and Wales is no longer in a good place and the consequences of the governmental attack on the rule of law will be felt for many years to come.
Post revised 16th January