In the news
In a written statement the legal aid minister Mr Shailesh Vara confirmed that a further 8.75% will be cut from the criminal legal aid budget in 2015. The legal profession has reacted with dismay. Andrew Caplan, president of the Law Society has stated his “deep concern” and published an open letter to the lord chancellor arguing that the cuts “undermines the role of criminal legal aid solicitors in our justice system”. He also points to December 2014 research which shows that young legal aid lawyers are a “dying breed”, something which the most recent cuts will not help to alleviate. Elsewhere, Jonathan Black – president of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association – has also expressed his bitter disappointment: “There is no further fat to be cut, let alone meat or skin – we are cutting deep into the bone.” Alistair Macdonald QC, chairman of the Bar Council, also expressed his “serious concerns”. Last month, 96% of criminal barristers voted for industrial action if these planned cuts went ahead.
- The European Games are set to start in Azerbaijan this week, despite widespread concern over the country’s human rights record. Amnesty and the Guardian have been denied entry into Azerbaijan, and their most prominent investigative journalist has called the situation a “human rights crisis”.
- Strong words from former attorney general and Conservative MP Dominic Grieve QC: ““Our [Conservative party] intent, if pursued, threatens to make the [European Convention on human rights] inoperable.” Obiter J also addresses the “thorny issue” of ECHR withdrawal here.
- David Anderson QC, the UK´s terror watchdog, has called current surveillance laws in the UK “undemocratic” and called for “comprehensive and comprehensible” new laws to govern the intrusive power of the state.
- The first conviction under new Forced Marriage legislation; a 34 year old man has been sentenced to 16 years after coercing a girl he was abusing to marry him against her will.
- The UN has reported on “gross human rights abuses” in Eritrea.
In the courts
A government system whereby rejected asylum seekers are kept in detention while they wait for their accelerated appeals to be heard has been deemed unlawful, and contains “structural unfairness”. Appellants are put at a “serious procedural disadvantage”, as lawyers representing the asylum seekers were expected to fully prepare the appeals in just 7 days. The effect of the judgement has been stayed to allow the government to appeal it. See Detention Action´s statement here.
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