A couple of months ago Solicitor Rachel Bentley launched an e-petition.
Its wording is simple and clear - ‘The MOJ should not proceed with their plans to reduce access to justice by depriving citizens of legal aid or the right to representation by the Solicitor of their choice.’
It reflected the concern of many about the governments plans to auction off Criminal Legal Aid to the lowest bidder and effectively deprive defendants of their right to have a lawyer of their choice –
Today the petition has reached the remarkable landmark of 100,000 signatures. This makes a nonsense of the governments insistence that those who oppose these so called ‘reforms’ are acting out of vested interest. It is a clear message that people are genuinely angered by this whole process.
So why is this such an important number? It means that parliament now has to take notice. Although a parliamentary debate is not guaranteed; it does now have to be considered.
Opposition Justice Spokesman Sadique Khan has promised an opposition debate on the matter.
Previous petitions that have reached the landmark have included disclosure of relevant Hillsborough documents, dropping the health bill and the stopping of a badger cull. These and many others have led to a debate –
It is fair to say that the #saveukjustice campaign has touched a nerve. There is much to do. We have a justice minister who is not known for listening. In fact he dismissed the concerns in an interview with the Gazette’s Catherine Baksi saying –
‘I don’t believe that most people who find themselves in our criminal justice system are great connoisseurs of legal skills. We know the people in our prisons and who come into our courts often come from the most difficult and challenged backgrounds.’
So let’s not be labouring under any delusions that the battle is won. But this is a massive step in the right direction.
Congratulations to those who have driven this campaign and worked tirelessly to get us this far.
And if you haven’t signed yet…….