Grayling’s legacy, naked rambling and the benefits cap: It’s the Round-up!

Naked RamblerLaura Profumo brings us up to speed with the latest human rights happenings.

In the News

“It seems hard to believe that Grayling will remain Lord Chancellor for long”. Joshua Rozenberg delivered a biting analysis of the minister’s future legacy in the Law Gazette last week. As the General Election looms, “perhaps Cameron has finally begun to realise how much anger and despair there is at the steady erosion in access to justice for which Grayling is held responsible”. If the Conservatives lead the next government, the Lord Chancellor will struggle to secure his place, Rozenberg warns.

Not only has Grayling’s draft British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities been shelved until after the election, but his court fees hike of up to 600% has left many “natural conservatives” smarting. Mathias Cheung similarly criticises such “enhanced” court fees, as the latest blade in his ‘arsenal of justice-axing statutory instruments’. The Law Society has already begun its push for judicial review: if the Lord Chancellor doesn’t “return to a genuine respect for the Magna Carta”, he must “prepare for imminent defeat in court”.

Last week’s publishing of the “devastating” report on civil legal aid certainly hasn’t helped matters, writes Rozenberg. The exceptional cases funding scheme under the Legal Aid, Sentencing, and Punishment of Offenders Act (2012) – Grayling’s supposed safety-net provision – has led to “possible miscarriages of justice”, with only 151 applications granted out of 2,090 made in an 18-month period. Grayling’s guidance on the scheme has on two occasions been ruled unlawful. Whilst the report shows Grayling achieved his £2bn savings, the question “but at what cost?” might prove his political quietus.

In Other News….

  • Barrister Jon Holbrook calls for race-discrimination laws to be abolished in the workplace, writing in Spiked.  In support of comments made by Nigel Farage, Holbrook argues current anti-discrimination laws “promote equality of outcome”, which is inimical to a “meritocratic workplace”.
  • The ECtHR has refused Stephen Gough – the notorious “naked rambler” – permission for a new hearing, following the Court’s finding last October that his repeated imprisonment for social nudity did not violate his ECHR rights under Articles 8 or 10.
  • Tom Hickman and Maurice Sunkin debunk the MOJ myth that 1% of judicial claims succeeded in 2014. The statistic only shows how “few cases lodged actually make it to a final hearing”, ignoring the high rate of favourable pre-trial settlements, and the “effective” permission threshold.
  • Criminal lawyers are preparing for further strikes, following the Court of Appeal’s rejection of a judicial review of further legal aid reforms last week (25th March). The latest defeat gives the green light to government plans to cut legal aid contracts for law firms, with some 1,000 firms likely to be lost. LCCSA president, Jonathan Black, has signalled it as a “devastating carve-up of solicitor representation’’.
  • The Human Rights Act isn’t just about good intentions – it’s producing “real-world benefits”, writes Natalie Threlfall. In light of the “climate of confusion” about the Act, The British Institute for Human Rights has launched their new campaign, “March for Human Rights”, which can be joined here.

In the Courts:

  • Coventry & Ors v Lawrence & Another [2012] UKSC 76

The Supreme Court heard the much-anticipated final appeal of Coventry v Lawrence last month. The case, concerning an underlying nuisance claim, first reached the Supreme Court last year, where it considered the compatibility of the costs recovery system (implemented under the Access to Justice Act 1999) with Article 6 (the right to a fair trial). In a surprising volte-face, Lord Neuberger observed the “malign influence” of the Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA) regime, and its “very disturbing” tail of costs. The hearing was adjourned until the 9th-12th January 2015, where it was heard with 8 intervening parties. Though the judgment is not expected until July, any finding of incompatibility will be considerable, with the government facing prolific compensation claims from “victims of the provisions”.

  • R (on the application of SG and others (previously JS and others)) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2015] UKSC 16

Legislation imposing a cap on welfare benefits for claimants in non-working households did not violate their ECHR rights, the Supreme Court held last week. The court considered whether such a cap – predominantly affecting single female parents, a group which includes many victims of domestic violence – was indirectly discriminatory. Whilst noting that the 2012 Regulations did have a differential impact on men and women, they were found to be both lawful and justified in seeking to curb public expenditure and incentivise those out of work to find employment. Lady Hale’s dissenting judgment finds particular support here.

Events 

  • Young Legal Aid Lawyers: 10-Year Anniversary

YLAL will be celebrating their 10th anniversary with a special symposium on 23rd April 2015. The keynote speech will be delivered by Baroness Patricia Scotland QC, followed by a panel debate on access to justice after the election, with speakers including Andy Slaughter MP. Register for the event here.

  • ‘Human Rights Beneath the Headlines’

As part of their ‘March for Human Rights’ campaign, the British Institute of Human Rights will be hosting a series of evening events, in which commonly reported human rights stories will be discussed and scrutinised against the facts. The next event will be held on 29th April 2015. Audience members are encouraged to email their questions about particular reports or cases in advance of the event. More details can be found here.

If you would like your event to be mentioned on the Blog, email Jim Duffy at jim.duffy@1cor.com

 

5 thoughts on “Grayling’s legacy, naked rambling and the benefits cap: It’s the Round-up!

  1. Benefit Cap. Full time jobs? Where? The traditional 39/40 hours a week has long gone, when week after week clients turn up at our little Citizens Advice Bureau. Part time work, flexi hours, zero hours contract that yes is the reality. Then in real term wages have gone down, so much more too coming out of the pay packet, its frightening, studying payroll this year gave me palpitations I can assure you. Most people need 2 jobs, plus there is the incredible cost of child care, where we have seen people paying as much as £8oo for it out of their salary. £320 is the lowest I found so far Debts, debts and more debts….That’s what we see daily at the CAB. People try so hard to make ends meet. Then there are the one in working poverty, worst than others, who go hungry, eventually out of despair turn to CAB for a food bank referral. Embarrassed, upset, then we have Workfare to destabilize work and pay conditions further. We have those with health conditions find fit for work when they are not and will require a Disability officer, clueless over rated and ill trained who will tell them what to do with their Life, Of course chances of finding decent employment bleak, and at what pay? And I now think of what a Union man told me this week-end, if its true, that if/people go shop lifting for food in Supermarket, the police if called must drop the case quietly, so as not to embarrassed the Government just before an Election. Domestic violence on the increased, bankruptcies running high, crimes against disables increasing,well I do expect shop lifting, Food bank want preferably people to receive TWO food bank parcels a year, but you are not hungry twice a year are you?
    What would a Judge know anyway of the real life out there? Zilch of course, and you can’t blame her, money, loads of it, job security,and why and how would she criticize the Gov? From Christine Dumonceau

  2. Labour have stated that they will not reverse the coalition’s legal aid cuts. I’m no longer surprised. However they should be challenged for this. After all it was Labour who really started to dismantle legal aid after personal injury went in 1996-7. I don’t believe any politicians will be able to curb the relentless campaign by civil servants to destroy access to justice and remove threats to the executive – irrespective of the Government that is in power.

  3. Grayling’s draft British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities should be put in the bin, for if the people vote for it they would not be told by voting for the new, it Would/MAY over-ride and destroy the people’s long standing Bill of Rights and Magna Carta and once that is done the Government themselves could then get rid of the new.
    TRUST-A WORD FROM THE PAST.

    Gone are the days, so long ago now,
    When trust in our Government held fast.
    When true to their Oath and to their King,
    Just a memory, from that long distant past.
    Weak now are those in that place of trust,
    Eagerly treacherous Treaties do sign,
    For those that forbid the people a say,
    Shout by hook or crook, ALL is mine.

    But trust is such a gentle word,
    It is fragile, needs loving tender care,
    For once it is lost, it is forever out of reach,
    To place again in their hands, no one dare
    The belief in reliability, truth or strength
    Is now misplaced for a while,
    No confidence left for those in power.
    For those deeds that are done are most vile.

    Each five years in a ‘position of trust’,
    An honour bestowed to cherish,
    These most precious Islands of ours
    That so many in the saving, did perish.
    Never again will the people believe
    Any word by an MP, friend or foe,
    The people will only trust in themselves,
    For it is they that hold the future you know.

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