Press release: Roadblock protests to go ahead despite announcement of “meaningless and cynical” changes to Legal Aid reforms.

Posted on Thu 5th Sep 2013, 8:39am
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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Roadblock protests to go ahead despite announcement of “meaningless and cynical” changes to Legal Aid reforms.



Campaign group UK Uncut today confirmed that road blockades planned in opposition to changes to Legal Aid would go ahead, in spite of a new consultation on parts of the reforms [1]. The protests, entitled “Roadblocks for Justice”, had already been planned in opposition to what campaigners described as “dangerous changes that will destroy democracy” [2].

Responding to the announcement that the Ministry of Justice will be rethinking some of its reforms, UK Uncut spokesperson Jim Thompson said: “The legal aid bill will destroy the crucial principle of equal access to justice, and Chris Grayling’s announcement today does nothing to change that. Despite today’s U-turn, the Legal Aid bill will still endanger the fundamental democratic principle that citizens should be able to challenge the government when it makes bad decisions.”

He continued: “These reforms will rip away the foundations of the democratic system, making the weak and vulnerable voiceless. UK Uncut’s Roadblocks for Justice protests will happen as planned on October 5th, in spite of today’s meaningless and cynical announcement”

A statement on the UK Uncut website encouraged groups from around the country to increase efforts to organise road-blocks on October the 5th. The group was unapologetic as to the disruption that would be caused, saying “We know that this will be disruptive. We know that it will stop the traffic. But we know that this kind of direct action works”.

The activists plan for roadblocks to happen in London and around the UK, and have enlisted the support of various other direct action groups, including Disabled People Against the Cuts and Plane Stupid [3, 4]. The protest groups claimed that their actions would be “symbolically highlighting the devastating effect the changes will have on access to justice”. [5]

The government’s reforms have come under increasing criticism, with England’s most senior family judge recently describing them as ‘disconcerting’ and suggesting that ‘something needs to be done’ [6]. Last month the government was forced to backtrack on a key part of the reforms, that of removing the right of legal aid defendants to choose their solicitor, following protests. [7]

The government claims that changes will improve efficiency in the legal system [8], but this claim has been challenged by research showing that the estimated £6m savings will be dwarfed by £30m in knock-on costs [9].

Sarah Price of UK uncut said “The changes in legal aid are an assault on the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. By insisting on these so-called ‘cuts’ the government takes away our ability to challenge their decisions, allowing them to cut deeper and without legal challenge.”

Lynn Jacobs, a UK uncut supporter said “I will be supporting this action because I have already seen the impact of legal aid changes. I fled an abusive relationship and was not sure what to do to protect myself. Because of the changes to legal aid I could not afford get a court order to protect myself from my ex-partner. I feel sad that the government does not want to help to protect me, and women like me, from violence. Why can’t the government make companies pay their fair share instead of punishing people like me?”


ENDS




Notes to editors:

[1] The confirmation comes after Justice Secretary Chris Grayling announced a partial U-turn on the Legal Aid bill in an interview with the Times. http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/law/article3860956.ece

[2] http://www.ukuncut.org.uk/blog/october-5th-join-uk-uncut-to-save-justice

[3] www.dpac.uk.net

[4] http://www.planestupid.com/

[5] http://www.ukuncut.org.uk/blog/october-5th-join-uk-uncut-to-save-justice

[6] These comments were made in a recent court case and are recorded as part of the official transcript. See http://www.marilynstowe.co.uk/2013/08/23/family-division-president-says-legal-aid-cuts-disconcerting/

[7] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-23132233

[8] https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/transforming-legal-aid

[9] http://legalaidchanges.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/nick-armstrong-costing-the-civil-legal-aid-propos...