Monday, 13 April 2015

A glance at the Labour Party Manifesto

Here are some of the "justice highlights" in the Labour Party Manifesto for the 2015 General Election.  The full manifesto is here and is summarised at Election 2015: Labour Manifesto at-a-glance

The EU and Human Rights:

Labour would work to reform the European Union, and would retain our membership of it.  The Human Rights Act 1998 would be protected and the European Court of Human Rights would be reformed rather than the UK walking away from it.  The precise "reforms" that would be sought are not mentioned.   Also, reform of the European Convention system is not a matter within the gift of the British government alone and the Council of Europe would have to be persuaded to introduce reforms.

Access to justice:

Labour would make sure that access to legal representation is not determined by personal wealth but remains available to those that need it.  Again, the manifesto is short on detail but there is a promise that access to Legal aid for victims of domestic violence will be widened.  On the basis of this manifesto, there is little to bring joy to those who would wish to see a return to much more comprehensive legal aid provision.  On this, please see the Steve Cornforth blog - What are the parties saying about Access to Justice?

The coalition government introduced fees of up to £1200 for employment tribunal claimants.  Labour sees this as a significant barrier to workplace justice and they would abolish the employment tribunal fee system as part of wider reforms to make sure that affordability is not a barrier to workers having proper access to justice, that employers get a quicker resolution and that costs to the tax payer do not rise.   The manifesto contains a commitment to repair the damage done by the coalition government to judicial review.  

The Constitution:

A whole section of the manifesto is concerned with how Britain is to be governed and so, constitutional reform, seems likely to be stepped up should Labour be in a position to form the next government.  Notable proposals here include votes for 16 and 17 year olds by 2016; more devolution of power to English cities and counties; a "people-led" constitutional convention to determine the future of the UK's governance and replacement of the House of Lords with an elected Senate of the Nation and regions.

Further proposals:

Further proposals include abolition of Police and Crime Commissioners and a strengthening of "neighbourhood policing".  Police Officers would become "chartered" and hold a registration from the College of Policing.  A new Police Standards Authority would replace the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

"Payback Orders" would be introduced to replace "low-level cautions."  

Tougher penalties to protect public sector workers from assault

Identification of 18-20 year olds thought likely to drift into criminal activitiy.

Police power to prevent an adult contacting or communicating with a child if there is evidence of abuse.

Strengthening the vetting and barring scheme.

A Women and Girls Bill with a Commissioner to set minimum standards in tackling domestic and sexual violence.  Amendment of the law so that rape suspects have their DNA recorded and stored.

 Victims of Crime would gain rights under a Bill to be introduced but, yet again, detail is lacking.  

There is a section on tackling extremism.  Proposals here include the possibility of "control orders" returning in some form.  There will be a mandatory deradicalisation programme for any individuals returning from "the Syrian conflict."  Investigative laws will be updated to keep abreast of new technology.  Also, the law on "disability, homophobic and transphobic hate crime" would be strengthened.   

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