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LETTERS: When law becomes preserve of the rich

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Greg Foxsmith

Published: 20 February, 2015

• THE Tribune has previously commented on cutbacks to legal aid. I thought readers may be interested to read how these are already affecting residents in Islington and elsewhere.

At the magistrates’ court, an increasing number of defendants are left unrepresented, leading to potential miscarriages of justice, and an increase in costs due to cases taking longer. Even the magistrates are getting worried.

In the civil courts, people on moderate or low income are unable to access legal advice on employment, family and welfare law. 

These cuts are alongside changes to judicial review, reducing the ability of an individual to challenge unfair or arbitrary decisions by the state.

Law is increasingly becoming the preserve of the rich, with the High Court clogged by billionaire libel-litigants and international oligarchs.

This year marks the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta, where we should celebrate the cherished ideals of equality before the law, right to a jury trial, and that justice should not be for sale. Instead, this government, with its legally illiterate Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling, holds an invite-only “legal summit”  (starting on Monday) with tickets priced at £1,500 per head. 

It has been said: “In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.” 

Only the rich can attend Mr Grayling’s fat-cat jamboree, hypocritically masquerading as a Magna Carta celebration. The rest of us can only peacefully protest outside, although we should make the most of that right as the freedom of public assembly is also being gradually eroded.

Any Islington residents who would like to express their concerns at this government’s erosion of rights before the law can join justice campaigners (with guest speakers including actress Maxine Peake) in Old Palace Yard, Westminster (opposite the Houses of Parliament) between 1pm and 2pm on Monday. 

To find out more, go to the Justice Alliance website at www.justiceallianceuk.wordpress.com

GREG FOXSMITH
Human rights lawyer

 

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