Friday, 4 December 2015

Now, stop me making the rest of my speech, Mr Gove

The draconian criminal courts charge was one subject of a motion against pricing poorer people out of justice, which for one reason or another was prevented from being put to a Liberal Democrat conference in October. A revised version has been put together and will be submitted by Aberavon and Neath Liberal Democrats to the federal conference in York next spring. While discussing how to polish the motion with some Liberal Democrat lawyers in Bournemouth, I came out with the old chestnut that "the doors of the English courts are always open, like those of the CafĂ© Royal" which was swiftly topped by Graham Colley to the effect that now one was liable to be mugged, dragged inside and forced to pay £5 for a cup of coffee. Well, now neither of us will be able to crack that joke from the podium in York because Michael Gove has shown more sense than his predecessor and announced that the charge will go from Christmas Eve. One hopes that it is not too late to bring back into the fold those magistrates who resigned rather than enforce the iniquitous charge.

That still leaves the cuts to the legal aid system, started by the Blair-Brown government, aggravated, regrettably, by the coalition and continued by the new Conservative administration. Progressive lawyers have lobbied the department of justice with proposals to streamline the administration of courts. These savings would go a long way to restoring the cuts which bear down heavily on those with low incomes who find themselves on the wrong end of civil action through no fault of their own. Nor is it only the poorest who suffer, as this example shows. Restoration of these cuts forms the largest part of the Aberavon and Neath motion. It would be great if it could be withdrawn as being overtaken by events, even though that would prevent my federal speaking debut.

No comments: