Press release: UK Uncut response to Justice Secretary’s speech at Conservative Party conference - Roadblock protests will happen this weekend

Posted on Mon 30th Sep 2013, 3:45pm
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ukuncut@gmail.com | 07415 063 231 | 07543 261 621 | @ukuncut

UK Uncut response to Justice Secretary’s speech at Conservative Party conference: Roadblock protests will happen this weekend 

Roadblock protests will go ahead this weekend, campaign group UK Uncut have confirmed, as the Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, reiterated plans to slash legal aid in his speech to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.

UK Uncut spokesperson Jim Thompson said: “The government’s proposals will destroy legal aid, blocking access to justice for all but the rich. Changes announced at the beginning of September do not alter the government’s fundamental assault on the foundations of the democratic system through these proposals.”

He continued: “The government has refused to listen to the clear opposition to these changes, so it’s time to fight back. UK Uncut’s Roadblocks for Justice protests will happen as planned on October 5th. 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 in London and around the UK, and have enlisted the support of other direct action groups, including Disabled People Against the Cuts, Plane Stupid and Fuel Poverty Action [1, 2, 3]. The protest groups explain that their actions would be “symbolically highlighting the devastating effect the changes will have on access to justice”. [4]

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’ [5]. In July, 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 [6].

The government claims that changes will improve efficiency in the legal system [7], but this claim has been challenged by research showing that the estimated £6m savings will be dwarfed by £30m in knock-on costs [8].

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:

[5] 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... 


Why Block A Road?

Posted on Sat 28th Sep 2013, 12:20pm
 
In the summer of 1981 a small group of women marched from Cardiff to the US airforce base in Greenham Common. They walked for nine days to protest at the locating of US cruise missiles there. Those women began what was to become one of the biggest acts of civil resistance ever to occur in the UK. The women stood together to block roads and to transform the space around the base in an act of defiance that would last for over twenty years. These women physically blocked roads, their bodies were peaceful symbols against the violence contained within the base.

In both the Indian nationalist movements demands for the end of imperialism and the call for civil rights in America, blocking roads and reclaiming space acted as a means for disempowered people to symbolically mark the inequality and injustice they faced at the hands of unjust governments and ruling authorities. On the 9 March 1965 in defiance of authorities Martin Luther King led a March to a site where just days earlier protestors had been beaten and attacked. At the site of the attack over 2000 protestors knelt and prayed. This act of defiance was both part of a wider demand for African American calls for the vote and a show of peace – a counter to the brutality of an undemocratic ruling authority.

Blocking roads and taking space have long histories in protest movements from peace activism to anti-imperialism, from calls for civil rights to trade union demands for workers rights. These moments of appropriation are a deliberate means to challenge injustice and to call for an extension of rights: calls for power to be distributed in a more equal fashion.

So like many before us, on 5 October UK uncut is blocking a road. Yet, this time there is a difference. The blockades before were about demanding new rights – from winning the vote to displaying women’s right to protest. Yet this time we challenge our government’s authority to rip away our rights. With the changes to legal aid and the proposed shifts in judicial reviews our equality before the law is being taken away – in so doing our ability to hold our government to account is threatened. The cuts enacted by this Government have taken away centuries of hard won rights and in the changes to the legal system are a final onslaught. Every single cut is challenged in our act of civil disobedience because in taking away our equality before the law the government undermines our right to protest.

Soaring over the old bailey, lady justice stands an impartial guardian. Inscribed beneath her the words ‘defend the children of the poor and punish the wrongdoer.’ Are you willing to stand by and have your rights taken under the ideological banner of economic cuts? This isn't about money, it's about division, untruth and injustice. It's about centuries worth of hard fought freedoms being attacked.

On October 5th join us to protect those rights - to tell the government that they have no mandate to block our access to justice. Stand together and say no to the cruelty of taking away the rights of the most vulnerable in society. Say yes to equality before the law. Or what's left of us then?

Press Release: UK Uncut promise disruption over legal aid changes

Posted on Wed 25th Sep 2013, 7:13am
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ukuncut@gmail.com | 07415 063 231 | @ukuncut



UK Uncut promise disruption over legal aid changes

Roadblock protests in opposition to changes to legal aid will go ahead, campaign group UK Uncut have confirmed, as the inquiry into the changes by the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) draws to a close [1]. The JCHR had written to the Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, asking that legal aid changes should not be implemented before the inquiry is able to report, a request that has been refused [2].

UK Uncut spokesperson Jim Thompson said: “Time and time again, this government has signalled its contempt for the principle of access to justice; refusing to wait for the Joint Committee on Human Rights’ inquiry findings before implementing its legal aid proposals is just one example of this.”

“Changes announced earlier this month do not alter the government’s fundamental assault on the foundations of the democratic system through these proposals, which are deliberately designed to further marginalise the most vulnerable people in our society.” 

He continued: “Because the government has continually refused to listen, UK Uncut’s Roadblocks for Justice protests will happen as planned on October 5th. 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 in London and around the UK, and have enlisted the support of other direct action groups, including Disabled People Against the Cuts, Plane Stupid and Fuel Poverty Action [3, 4, 5]. The protest groups explain that their actions would be “symbolically highlighting the devastating effect the changes will have on access to justice”. [6]

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’ [7]. In July, 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 [8].

The government claims that changes will improve efficiency in the legal system [9], but this claim has been challenged by research showing that the estimated £6m savings will be dwarfed by £30m in knock-on costs [10].

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] http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/joint-select/human-rights-committee/news.... The inquiry, into ‘the implications for access to justice of the government's proposed legal aid reforms’, will stop taking written submissions on Friday 27 September 2013.

[2] http://www.parliament.uk/documents/joint-committees/human-rights/GEN%20%2813-14%29%20027%20-%20SoS%2...

[3] http://dpac.uk.net/

[4] http://www.planestupid.com/ 

[5] http://fuelpovertyaction.org.uk/

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

[7] 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...

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

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

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


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