Legal Aid is under threat like never before – so before I go any further, please, PLEASE, consider signing this petition:
It really matters. It matters for reasons far more eloquently expressed by many others including a series of brilliant blogs by “a barrister’s wife”: http://abarristerswife.wordpress.com/
…Read this and any of the very many other recent blogs and articles by practitioners and commentators and you will be struck by the authentic, almost visceral, frustration, passion and sincerity of the lawyers who care and care deeply. Make no mistake this is a real fight which is not about party political positions, but about protecting deep-seated and important constitutional rights developed and cherished by generations.
Now let me point a finger, not at the Lord Chancellor, but at the legal profession. How the hell did we let this happen?
Legal Aid rates have been rubbish for years, the system creaking for a generation at least, law firms have gone bust, practitioners have left legal aid practices to chase ambulances instead and no-one, not anyone, thinks that the courts operate efficiently.
I support the protest, it is of course essential, but a protest without an alternative is howling at the moon. I assume no one wants to keep the status quo so we are presumably protesting for change, but a change to what?
The anger is justified, the frustration is understandable and the fear is real; but credibility requires more than haranguing politicians, or spoof videos or celebrity endorsement. Credibility is about coming forward with the alternatives.
The system is broken. The government wants to bin it. Fighting for a broken system can only be a short term expedient. So if we genuinely care for the values we protest so loudly to preserve; if we really want those in need to have access to justice in an efficient and well-managed system, now is the time to propose it.
Access to justice before the self-interests of the profession is going to be tough for many individuals and many firms, but I believe the profession is capable of leading such change and now it really has to. We’re not even in the last chance saloon; this is kicking out time.
I really do urge us therefore not just to stand up to protest, but to stand up to lead the difference.