On 6 January, for the first time in 800 years, barristers staged a half day walkout in protest against government cuts in legal aid.
If you haven’t already, read Dexter Dias QC’s excellent article on why they did so. He explains why cuts to legal aid will mean unequal access to justice. And like so many of the measures taken by the coalition, the brunt of the cuts fall on the poor and will create a two-tier system. As always, and as with healthcare, or visas or pretty much anything else, if you’re rich, you can sidestep the hammer blow.
This and so many other decisions boil down to an essential argument: what sort of society do we want? Who will we protect? The government has successfully pit old against young, set communities at odds with one another, migrant from citizen, and while we tear ourselves apart, a certain elite is consolidating their power. (for more: see the lobbying bill).
To quote from Dias:
“Administrations that damage those whose job it is to challenge malicious or misguided state action are not stupid. Governments that destroy defence lawyers are not dim. They are dangerous. And like an unreliable witness trapped in the witness-box, Grayling gave the game away when he gave evidence to the Parliamentary Justice Committee. There he admitted that rather than simply being an inevitable consequence of the financial situation, the cuts were also ‘ideological’. We have seen all too clearly the ideology he subscribes to in welfare and immigration policies; in the proliferation of food poverty and food banks. We’ve seen how reduced rights and increased inequality are acceptable collateral damage to this Government’s ideological bent.
Thus we must not view these public justice cuts in isolation. They form part of a pattern. They are the next scene in a landscape of barren social provision and battered social safety nets. Is this what we want? For the sake of our community’s weak and vulnerable, the marginalised and the maligned – in fact the groups the government has already systematically attacked – we must not let them prevail.”