On Monday 6th January 2014, HCLC staff and interns joined barristers, solicitors and campaigners from all over the country to protest at Government proposals to make even more cuts to criminal legal aid.
This was the first time ever in the history of the Criminal Bar, that practising barristers had walked out of court, en mass, to take industrial action.
HCLC was represented at the protest by Hilton von Herbert, Senior Immigration Caseworker (pictured above left); Nathaniel Mathews, Senior Housing Solicitor; Subashini Nathan, former HCLC intern (pictured above right); and Miranda Grell, Business Development Manager.
HCLC was very pleased to see our local Member of Parliament and HCLC Patron, Diane Abbott (pictured above), in attendance at the demonstration to show her support. Diane told the protesters that: “Britain needs a justice system that is “free for all” and encouraged attendees to persist with their campaign against the cuts.
Diane Abbott (pictured above with Miranda Grell) said: “I do not say that our legal system is perfect; I do not say that all lawyers are perfect, but time and time again legally aided lawyers have been able to get justice for people of all communities. That’s why we have to keep up with this campaign“.
HCLC Patron and human rights lawyer Louise Christian (pictured centre with Miranda and Hilton) also attended to show her support. Louise Christian said: “These cuts, and the cuts to civil legal aid, mean that people without money don’t have access to the courts. Every advance that I’ve seen throughout my legal career is now being set back“.
Murad Qureshi AM, London-wide Assembly Member (pictured above centre with Hilton and Miranda) also joined the protesters.
Commenting on the protests, HCLC Chair Ian Rathbone said:
“Hackney Community Law Centre has fully supported the campaign against the new legal aid cuts. We are already seeing the awful damage being caused to Hackney people by the legal aid cuts in housing, welfare law and immigration cases.
“You can understand how strong the feeling is in the legal profession that it is actually the first time barristers have withdrawn their labour, according to the Criminal Bar Association, and the first time the two wings of the legal profession have taken co-ordinated, national action.
There is considerable concern that we are going to see a two-tier justice system – those who can afford to pay will pay, leaving the poor to be represented by increasingly inexperienced and poorly paid lawyers. And the way the new financial system works, it’s in the interests of lawyers to get their clients to plead guilty and not go through a trial. This is a travesty of what justice is about and the ruination of one of the best legal systems in the world.”
Read HCLC Board Member Mary-Rachel McCabe’s full report of the demonstration outside Westminster Magistrate’s Court HERE.