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
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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 . The protests, entitled “Roadblocks for Justice”, had already been planned in opposition to what campaigners described as “dangerous changes that will destroy democracy” .
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”. 
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’ . 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. 
The government claims that changes will improve efficiency in the legal system , but this claim has been challenged by research showing that the estimated £6m savings will be dwarfed by £30m in knock-on costs .
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?”
Notes to editors:
 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
 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/
The government is about to launch its biggest attack yet on our rights, freedoms, and equality. They want to completely block access to justice for all but the rich, and they want to do it by the end of the year. Such an historic attack on people’s rights cannot, should not and will not go unchallenged. On 5th October, join UK Uncut as we take mass civil disobedience to show that we won’t take this assault on our equality before the law.
The government have forced through devastating cuts in every
area from education to housing, welfare to healthcare, and now they want to
stop us challenging their unfair and unnecessary decisions, and to stop us from
If these proposals go through they will stop people from disputing unfair evictions from their homes. They will stop babies from having their interests represented in family disputes. And they will stop the families of people killed in custody or detention from fighting for the truth.
This isn’t a cut that we’re talking about. The changes to legal aid won’t save even one penny, in fact they will cost money by causing havoc to the legal system. They are not motivated by a need to save money – these are ideological changes aimed at ruining justice for poor people and handing more contract cash to G4S and Serco.
So join the UK uncut collective in blocking roads outside of courts around the country. In an act of direct action, we will stand against these dangerous changes that will destroy democracy and ordinary people’s lives. 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, and that we need to use it to save justice.
We already have the support of DPAC, Defend the Right to protest, Women Against Rape, Plane Stupid, Kent Refugee Help and BARAC UK. But we need your help to make this huge. Get a group together, meet and come up with some ideas for your own act of creative civil disobedience. Start planning, find your nearest court, list your action on the action section of our website and get in touch if we can help.
Blocking roads has an important and effective history in direct action in the
UK, and given the government has ignored petitions and protests,
civil disobedience is needed to defend our rights against this attack. By
blocking roads outside of courts, we will be symbolically highlighting the
devastating effect the changes will have on access to justice. If you’re angry that the government is blocking justice for the poorest and
most vulnerable, join us on the 5th. Tell all your friends, family and colleagues.
Shout about it, tweet it, facebook it.
See you on the streets!
Things are about to get very loud. The government has already slashed legal aid for thousands of people earlier this year. But that is not enough for them. They want to finish the job they started and completely block access to justice for all but the rich by the end of this year.
People are angry about these proposals: there have been petitions and protests, but the government is ignoring us and it’s clear that civil disobedience is needed to stop their attack on our rights as individuals, communities, society. It’s up to us to make some noise to fight for justice now.
The UK Uncut
collective has got an idea…. We want to resist the government’s plans loudly,
creatively, and forcefully. We’re adding some spice to our plans over the
weekend – right now we’re thinking of blocking roads across the country to show our resistance to the government’s
plans to block access to justice. And we want your help over this weekend to
come up with a name for the action and catchy slogans for banners and to spread
the word to save the date: Saturday 5
October. We’ll be releasing all the info next week, so get ready to start
plotting where you live too!
info about what the government is planning to make your blood boil and
will remove the government from accountability to ordinary people who are
fighting for our hospitals to be kept open, roofs over our heads and food in
our bellies. The motivation for these changes isn’t about money at all as they will
cost more than they ‘save’. The incentive for the changes is that the
government will be able to implement its vicious cuts agenda with fewer legal headaches.
For example, many people who are facing eviction because they haven’t been able
to keep up with rent after the introduction of the bedroom tax or benefits cap will
struggle to find free lawyers who will challenge local authority decisions to evict
them and not provide emergency accommodation. People will end up on the
Another highly damaging aspect of the reforms is that the legal aid contracts will go to the cheapest bidder. It is inevitable that non-law firms such as Eddie Stobart (yes, the lorry company), and private security firms, like G4S, Serco and GEO - will get the government legal aid contracts rather than specialised, dedicated human rights or Welsh language firms. Quality solicitors who specialise in representing Black people, migrants and refugees won’t get a look in. There is a dystopian logic to this kind of ‘joined-up’ thinking. It goes like this: G4S is a private security company. It currently runs the prisons and police custody roles in which many criminal legal aid clients will be held before and after they are advised to plead guilty by their G4S lawyer. And because the government wants to pay the same for a guilty plea or a not guilty plea there will be a financial incentive for solicitors to get their client to plead guilty and to finish the case as quickly as possible. That’s what the government likes to call ‘efficiency’. This is what we call a miscarriage of justice.The government also wants to deny access to legal representation to babies under the age of one in family dispute cases, refugees, women fleeing domestic violence, and families who have a second home in the south of Spain. People won’t be eligible for legal aid if they can’t prove that they are currently living in the UK lawfully and have done so for 12 months. The proposed changes will mean that people like the families of Jimmy Mubenga and Jean Charles de Menezes would not have been able to fight for justice in the UK.
We can stop these proposals. Join us Saturday 5 October. Spread the word. Get involved on social media this weekend to choose a name and plans for the action. See you on the streets. #Nojusticenopeace