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Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Clarke and Djanogly Out ... what next?

The recent Cabinet re-shuffle has seen the removal of Ken Clarke as Justice Secretary and Jonathan Djanogly as Justice Minister. They have been the architects of the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) which has seen the most brutal cuts in Legal Aid in history, alongside relentless attacks on personal injury victims and their lawyers.

So for anybody concerned with Access to Justice this could be good news. But I would not be celebrating just yet. Mr. Grayling is certainly not on record as opposing any of these cuts and since LASPO has now received Royal Assent an ambitious politician is unlikely to change much.

In the past he has spoken out against The Human Rights Act but Liberty has pointed out that he did oppose ID cards and quoted the Human Rights Act. And he may have a different view on the secret courts which I have mentioned before.  

On the other hand he did also once speak in favour of the rights of Bed and Breakfast owners to turn away a gay couple.

But there is always hope, especially as the newcomers to the MOJ include solicitor Helen Grant and Birmingham Barrister Jeremy Wright who is a Criminal Law expert acting for Prosecution and Defence. So could the voice of someone who is familiar with the ‘coalface’ make a difference?According to the Guardian Ms Grant has been a critic of the Legal Aid cuts, which is promising - 

The general view in the medial is that the main purpose of this re-shuffle is to placate the Conservative Party’s right wing. If that is the case we should not expect too much to change in relation to Legal Aid, Human Rights or open justice.

On the other hand this is a complete clean out of the old regime that has angered most lawyers and others involved in advising ordinary people. So maybe there is some scope for a more sympathetic approach.

Ever the optimist!!

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