openJustice https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/22783/all cached version 12/06/2018 10:12:24 en Fat cats or poor hacks? Why criminal barristers are refusing to work – and why you should care https://www.opendemocracy.net/faraz-shibli/fat-cats-or-poor-hacks-why-criminal-barristers-are-refusing-to-work-and-why-you-should- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Busting the myths about the criminal bar.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/barrister legal aid 2014 protest.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/barrister legal aid 2014 protest.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="329" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: 2014 walk-outs by criminal barristers over legal aid cuts - action has now escalated. Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Images, all rights reserved.</em></p><p>Since 1 April, criminal barristers in England and Wales have been refusing to go to court.</p> <p>What has incensed our learned friends so much as to leave defendants unrepresented in the dock? The latest wave of cuts to legal aid that would bring an already creaking criminal justice system to its knees.</p> <p>Social media comments suggest, however, that many members of the public are unmoved:</p> <p>‘Will they now have to drive Porches instead of Lamborghinis?’</p> <p>‘One phone call to [my] lawyer and two letters written by [my] lawyer. Bill was over £500. Difficult to justify how much they charge!’</p> <p>Sadly, many people like the commenters above confuse legal aid work, which is publicly funded, with private work. They’re therefore probably unaware that some barristers earn as little as £12,000 per year.</p> <p>Here’s how—and why you should care.</p> <p>Legal aid work involves barristers representing people who can’t afford to pay privately. Those barristers aren’t paid by the people they represent, but by the state. The vast majority of criminal cases are publicly funded, and many involve representing some of the most vulnerable people in society—including children, the mentally ill and the homeless.</p> <p>Many barristers take on exclusively (or almost exclusively) legal aid work—I was one of them. In criminal cases,&nbsp;<a href="https://youngbarhub.com/2017/09/18/young-barristers-fees-in-the-magistrates-court/" target="_blank">it’s common for barristers early on in their career to represent someone at court for under £100—and sometimes as little as £50</a>.</p> <p>That includes all case preparation, travel time (often to another part of the country), time spent in conference with the client, time spent waiting to get called on, time spent in court, time spent advising the client and their solicitor on the result (potentially including the prospect of an appeal) and time spent writing up a record of all of the above afterwards.</p> <p>From that figure, the barrister (who’s typically self-employed) will take off their travel costs; their clerks’ fees (typically 10–20 per cent of the barrister’s fee); their practising certificate, professional membership and annual training fees; the cost of their legal reference books (hundreds of pounds); and the cost of their wig, gown and other required items of court dress (hundreds of pounds).</p> <p>That’s before tax.</p> <p>It’s not difficult to see how many barristers can earn well below the minimum wage—or even end up paying to go to court. In my first year as a barrister living in London in 2008, I was in court five or six days a week (including some Saturdays) and preparing cases at home on Sundays.</p> <p>For my efforts I earned the princely sum of £10,000.</p> <p>Since then, repeated cuts to legal aid have meant&nbsp;<a href="https://www.ft.com/content/4f3adfac-358e-11e8-8b98-2f31af407cc8" target="_blank">barristers’ fees have plummeted more than 40 per cent in real terms</a>.</p> <p>Can you think of any other profession that has faced anywhere near this level of swingeing cuts?</p> <p>But this isn’t about legal aid barristers whinging about how little they’re paid—no one does this job for the money. It’s about protecting access to justice.</p> <p>Fewer people are now eligible for legal aid, meaning many are left to represent themselves in the criminal, family and civil courts in cases that can have life-changing consequences for them.</p> <p>I can’t count the number of elderly and mentally ill defendants I’ve seen arguing their case alone in front of a judge, fighting for their liberty. It’s shameful.</p> <p>It’s also crucial for justice that the criminal bar attracts the best and the brightest from a wide range of backgrounds. It has become nigh on impossible for students who aren’t from privileged, middle-class families, backed up by the bank of mum and dad, to thrive—or even survive—as criminal barristers.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.criminalbar.com/resources/news/cba-monday-message-21-05-18/" target="_blank">Some have spoken out about being even unable to afford their train ticket to court or relying on their Boots Advantage Card to be able to afford lunch</a>.</p> <p>These situations aren’t uncommon, and they show how little successive governments have valued our criminal justice system.&nbsp;</p> <p>Yes, the most experienced criminal barristers—QCs and the like, who’ve been working for decades and deal with complicated and high-profile murder and terrorism trials—are paid very well. But they’re absolutely not representative of the criminal bar, despite the fat-cat stereotype the tabloids love to peddle.</p> <p>The question is: why on earth would someone want to become a criminal barrister nowadays—to rack up huge amounts of debt in university fees and the necessary further years of training to earn a pittance for what is extremely hard work, with no minimum wage, no maternity leave, no paid holidays and no pension?</p> <p>I applaud the criminal barristers now refusing to work in protest. And I’d be joining them, if I hadn’t already thrown in the towel and left the bar two years ago.</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk openJustice Justice for the rich alone? (openJustice) Faraz Shibli Tue, 05 Jun 2018 10:45:54 +0000 Faraz Shibli 118247 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Windrush and Legal Aid: how free legal representation could have avoided a national scandal https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/caterina-franchi/windrush-and-legal-aid-how-free-legal-representation-could-have-avoided-national <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Many migration decisions are wrong - but since legal aid for such cases was scrapped by the LASPO Act 2012, few migrants have the money to challenge them. Meanwhile, an ongoing review drags on. </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/winrush photocall.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/winrush photocall.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="326" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Windrush generation members with David Lammy, 1 May. Credit: Yui Mok/PA Images, all rights reserved.</em></p><p>In parliament this week, the newly appointed Home Secretary Sajid Javid, vowed to “do right” by the Windrush generation. His colleagues – including his predecessor Amber Rudd – have in recent weeks reassured us that the Home Office can and must change its spots, and act with compassion and administrative flexibility.</p> <p>Rudd also repeatedly <a href="https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2018-04-16/debates/7234878F-ACEE-48DD-A94C-9013B38FA465/WindrushChildren(ImmigrationStatus)">told Parliament</a> in recent days that the Windrush children did not need access to lawyers or independent legal advice to regularise their status, saying the system “[does] not require people to go to their lawyers […] it will be sufficiently constructive, sympathetic and helpful that it will not require people […] to have lawyers”.</p> <p>But before the Guardian exposed Windrush as a national scandal, ultimately leading to Rudd’s resignation on Sunday night, any immigration lawyer would tell you that although winnable, Windrush cases were difficult to prepare, and generally required firm correspondence with the Home Office and, in some instances, a Court challenge. Dealings with the Home Office in Windrush cases pre-scandal certainly did not suggest the department was capable of compassion and administrative flexibility.</p> <p>When legal aid was abolished for immigration cases in 2013, those same lawyers would tell you that it became virtually impossible for Windrush children to succeed in obtaining confirmation of their legal status and that too many vulnerable people were left to their own devices to deal with a targets-obsessed Government organisation that took no prisoners (<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/nov/28/i-cant-eat-or-sleep-the-grandmother-threatened-with-deportation-after-50-years-in-britain">except when they did</a>).&nbsp; </p> <p><strong>The chaos before the storm</strong></p> <p>Even before the 2013 cuts to legal aid, applications for even the most basic way Windrush children could obtain confirmation of their legal status in the UK - No Time Limit (NTL) status – were notoriously complicated. They required official documents and records of someone's life in the UK spanning over as many as four decades.</p> <p>The Home Office showed no flexibility for such applications. They rarely accepted alternative forms of evidence from applicants, such as personal testimonies, when official records were unavailable or <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/apr/17/home-office-destroyed-windrush-landing-cards-says-ex-staffer">recklessly destroyed</a> by the Home Office itself. It also rarely made contact with people to obtain further evidence when documents were missing from an application and it irrationally refused to liaise with other Government agencies to obtain confirmation of someone's continuous residence in the country by, for example, requesting evidence of uninterrupted payment of National Insurance contributions from HMRC. </p> <p><a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/home-affairs-committee/windrush-children/oral/82003.html">Giving evidence</a> to the Home Affairs Committee on Wednesday, Adrian Berry, the head of the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association, perfectly summarised the problems: “the cogency of the evidence and the level of the quality of the evidence that is required [by the Home Office] […] is the problem. […] there is a very good case for saying perhaps the burden ought to be shared [between the applicant and the Home Office], because the primary way of corroborating a person’s narrative account of their life in the UK is through things like National Insurance contributions and pension contribution records”.</p> <p>The Home Office hostile approach, together with target-obsessed poor decision-making (see reports <a href="https://www.thetimesbrief.co.uk/users/39175-the-brief-team/posts/24973-immigrants-held-indefinitely-due-to-poor-home-office-decisions">here</a>, <a href="https://www.ein.org.uk/news/parliamentary-ombudsman-criticises-home-office-delay-and-poor-decisions-immigration-cases">here</a> and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/apr/13/home-office-asylum-system-suicide-uk-mental-health">here</a>) meant that Windrush generation children needed legal representation to navigate the complicated and chaotic framework that is the UK immigration system. Most importantly, they required initial advice from a lawyer to understand what their rights were and how to enforce them. Members of the Windrush generation arrived in the UK as children and spent decades in the UK confident of their legal status in the Country. When wrongly told otherwise, initial legal advice became fundamental to challenge that assertion.&nbsp; </p> <p><strong>From difficult to impossible&nbsp; </strong></p> <p>Legal aid for immigration cases was abolished in 2013. When the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) came into force in April 2013, the Windrush generation were automatically excluded from the benefit of free legal advice and effectively from any form of meaningful access to justice that could help them obtain confirmation of their legal status in the UK.&nbsp; </p> <p>For extreme cases where the denial of legal aid would breach human rights, LASPO introduced a “safety net”, known as the Exceptional Case Funding (ECF) scheme. But this safety net does not cover initial legal advice, and in the first year only 1% of applications for ECF were granted. So the only way that Windrush children could realistically access legal advice post-LASPO was by having enough money to pay for a lawyer. That’s on top of Home Office application fees of up to £2,389 for Indefinite Leave to remain. And that’s amidst financial struggles for the Windrush children, many of whom had been <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/apr/20/its-inhumane-the-windrush-victims-who-have-lost-jobs-homes-and-loved-ones">sacked or refused the right to work</a>.</p> <p>The situation was worsened when the Immigration Act 2014, in addition to the introduction of more stringent “hostile environment” policies, removed the right of Windrush children to appeal to an independent Tribunal against negative Home Office decisions.</p> <p>So not only did initial legal advice suddenly became unavailable to Windrush children, but poorly made decisions remained effectively unchallenged as the great majority of people found themselves unable to pay for legal representation in Court. </p> <p>As Jeremy Corbyn pointed out on Wednesday during <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-p3bGPebr_E">Prime Minister’s question time</a> “the dismantling of legal aid provisions in 2012 made the impact of the 2014 Immigration Act harder to challenge. These policies swept up British citizens and legal migrants causing them immense suffering”. </p> <p>In an increasingly hostile environment, with no access to free independent advice, good decision making and impartial Tribunals, it’s no surprise that Windrush children were left unable to navigate an overly complicated system and that proving their legal status in the UK became an impossible endeavour. </p> <p><strong>Any change in sight?</strong></p> <p>The Windrush scandal seems to be the obvious opportunity for the Government to review the cuts to legal aid and the disastrous impact that they have had on so many people’s access to justice. However, before being forced to resign, Rudd went out of her way to <a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/home-affairs-committee/windrush-children/oral/82003.html">explain</a> that she was “<em>not looking at changing legal aid</em>”. Whether that is also the will of Sajid Javid remains uncertain. On his first day in the job, Home Affairs Committee chair Yvette Cooper MP asked him if he would “look again at reinstating independent appeals and legal aid to prevent injustice in future”. Javid ignored the question, but pressed by Karen Buck MP on the same point, he merely referred her to the Justice Department’s <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/post-implementation-review-of-laspo">review of the LASPO act already underway</a> (and already delayed, with fresh <a href="https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/law/laspo-review-government-to-revisit-ambitious-summer-deadline-/5065132.article">doubts over the revised summer deadline</a>).</p> <p>What is obvious, however, is that the current system makes the access to justice gap worryingly wide for too many vulnerable people such as the Windrush children. As Katharine Viner wrote in <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/membership/2018/apr/30/how-the-windrush-scandal-showed-the-guardian-holding-power-to-account-katharine-viner">the Guardian</a> this week, the Windrush scandal shows the need for a system to hold power to account. Sadly, the removal of legal aid for the great majority of immigration cases did just the opposite. It created a system where people at their most vulnerable are unable to access basic legal representations to assert a right that has been theirs all along. It created a system where bad-decision making remains unchallenged and where people find themselves alone dealing with an unfriendly and unsympathetic institution. That system is plainly unsustainable and it can no longer be tolerated.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openjustice/rachel-logan/amnesty-concludes-that-legal-aid-cuts-are-major-human-rights-issue">Legal aid cuts are a major human rights issue</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openjustice/alison-picku/how-safe-is-legal-aid-safety-net">How safe is the legal aid &#039;safety net&#039;?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openjustice/oliver-carter/do-we-have-right-to-justice">Do we have a right to justice?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openjustice/ronagh-craddock/asylum-seekers-are-left-destitute-and-homeless-due-to-lack-of-legal-aid">Asylum seekers are left destitute and homeless due to a lack of legal aid </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openjustice/clare-jennings/hungry-homeless-and-in-need-of-legal-aid-lawyer">Hungry, homeless and in need of a legal aid lawyer</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk openJustice Justice for the rich alone? (openJustice) Caterina Franchi Thu, 03 May 2018 08:51:01 +0000 Caterina Franchi 117657 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Consumer is King? Of class actions and who matters in EU law https://www.opendemocracy.net/openjustice/christopher-patz/consumer-is-king-of-class-actions-and-who-matters-in-eu-law <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The European Commission proposes that consumers should be able to take class actions in future, in the wake of the VW Dieselgate scandal. But it has forgotten other victims of corporate harm.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/11477716354_85a9169b8e_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/11477716354_85a9169b8e_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/104013316@N06/11477716354/in/photolist-iufich-bBut1F-c1dJRQ-osJE6J-esvM2E-gq7GiJ-Y6foav-Y6foC4-9jKRgG-9jKRgY-iu2biA-5vX7Wp-9hSHPx-rdDms2-9jKRgS-21Vxj16-eqWaED-o8noMp-srMAfF-21inGyZ-erSukq-du2X44-hYZapN-nYiGH5-7k6jnW-mEkRU7-T7iLbT-gq835j-5P3mHt-ezZRC9-cJMRZ5-aoEU9G-5773fW-d2bapN-eR1AnH-5YYdFT-r7iT6A-pZeKbB-63c8i2-fNpx7D-eH8oyZ-YmK8Bu-8KLbKc-831gf1-r71Non-iu1MpY-dr11dT-dr1dv3-a5zuW2-qLvjE8">Keita Kuroki/Flickr</a>, Creative Commons license.<br /></em></p><p>A fire in a textile factory in Pakistan killed over 260 workers on 11 September 2012. The workers were producing directly for the German clothes retailer KiK! (“Kunde ist König!” or <em>Consumer is King!)</em> in a building without fire alarms, emergency exits, or fire extinguishers. Of the roughly four hundred relatives and injured survivors, only four were able to afford to bring<a href="https://www.ecchr.eu/en/our_work/business-and-human-rights/working-conditions-in-south-asia/pakistan-kik.html"> claims for compensation</a> against the clothes brand in Germany, financed by German NGOs. These four separate claims all argue the same thing: the brand broke its duty to ensure the factory had fire safety measures in place. In August 2016, <a href="http://www.sueddeutsche.de/wirtschaft/textilindustrie-kik-muss-wegen-brand-in-pakistanischer-fabrik-vor-gericht-1.3141509">German judges</a> accepted jurisdiction over the cases and granted the four individuals legal aid.</p> <p>Now, at the end of 2017, the roughly 400 remaining survivors and relatives are time-barred from bringing more cases, as they were unable to raise the necessary funds in time. </p> <p>Collective redress (also known as “class action”) is a procedure allowing many individuals to bring their judicial claims together in a single proceeding against a common defendant. It economises the proceedings for claimants by enabling them to run the one same case for many, at roughly the same financial cost and risk. It economises the functioning of the judiciary, as numerous identical claims are dealt with together, thereby saving the courts time and resources.</p> <p>Had collective redress been available in Germany, all fire survivors and relatives of the deceased workers could have brought one combined claim against <em>Consumer is King!</em>. However it isn’t, and its availability across EU Member States is a disharmonised patchwork. The <em>Consumer is King!</em> case is just one current example from an EU Member State where the lack of collective address has resulted in the denial of access to justice for hundreds of people having suffered grievous harm.</p><p>In October 2017 the European Commission announced plans for EU-wide legislation for collective redress. But unlike previous,<a href="http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=celex%3A32013H0396"> non-binding efforts</a> from the Commission that applied to all victims of corporate harm, the current binding proposal is only for consumers. So if people who bought jeans from <em>Consumer is King!</em> somehow suffered harm as a result (say, the jeans didn’t perform the way they were advertised), they could join together and claim their rights against the company as the consumers of its products. But those who made the jeans, or any others suffering harm as a result of the company’s malpractice (hypothetically say, a factory waste spill, or discriminatory hiring practices), are not afforded the right. </p> <p>Whilst it is very clear the Commission’s proposal comes in response to the VW Dieselgate scandal (where consumers in the US were able to obtain <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-volkswagen-emissions/u-s-judge-approves-14-7-billion-deal-in-vw-diesel-scandal-idUSKCN12P22F">billions</a> in compensation, whilst those in the EU struggle to obtain anything), it is far from clear why others harmed by gross business misconduct are excluded from the proposal.</p> <p>One<a href="http://www.corporatejustice.org/documents/ahrri_report_final-2.pdf"> study</a> has found that over half of the companies listed on the UK FTSE 100, France’s CAC 40 and the German DAX 30 have been identified in allegations or concerns regarding adverse human rights impacts. Without question, not all these allegations or concerns would meet the requisite standard of proof required by a court in order to order compensation. Nonetheless the numbers are alarming, and testify to the reality that whilst globalisation has granted corporations much freedom of operation, rules for their accountability and the protection of the people they harm lag behind. </p> <p>Harm caused by large corporate entities seriously affects all manner of people. When a mine barrage breaks and 100,000 square meters of cyanide laced water spills into the Danube river system, huge numbers of people suffer as a result. In 2000, collective redress was not available for the Romanian and Hungarian victims of the worst<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2000_Baia_Mare_cyanide_spill"> environmental disaster</a> in Europe since Chernobyl. It isn’t today, and indeed it still wouldn’t be under the Commission’s current proposed legislation. </p> <p>Similar situations persist in cases of discrimination, labour abuse, violations of anti-trust law as well as data protection. The disharmonised patchwork of collective redress across the EU also has a negative impact on fair competition, as varied corporate exposure to deterrent (injunctive) and corrective (compensatory) action across Member States means some companies are more easily subjected to class-action litigation than others, depending on where they operate within the single market. This is creating an unfair playing field for companies. </p><p>Compared to consumer cases, the barriers to justice in corporate environmental harm and human rights cases are typically even more extreme. To begin with, such cases require masses of expert evidence, testimony, and studies in order to prove causation of harm; they involve prolonged legal fees, not to mention the intimidating prospect of financial ruin in the event of loss (the loser-pays principle standard to EU legal systems means a claimant must pay the defendant’s legal costs if the claimant loses). For a corporate defendant on the other hand, the decision to litigate is often hardly even a matter for consideration.<a href="https://blogs.worldbank.org/publicsphere/world-s-top-100-economies-31-countries-69-corporations"> 69 of the world’s 100</a> largest economies are corporations, not nation-states. Such a disempowering set of circumstances often leaves individuals with claims against large corporate entities with a convenient and oft-proclaimed right to access justice and remedy on paper, but not in practice.</p> <p>The worldwide deficit concerning access to remedy in cases of harm occasioned by corporations is real and significant. It has been acknowledged by the international community and is the subject of one of the tree pillars of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business &amp; Human Rights (UNGPs), a breakthrough, yet non-binding international instrument agreed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011 and endorsed by all major European countries as well as the EU itself. The UNGPs confirm that States have a duty to ensure the effective functioning of their judicial systems for victims of business harm. This means addressing the clear and blatant power imbalances between individual claimants and large, well-resourced corporations.</p> <p>Allowing individual claimants the right to bring their cases together is a concrete and effective way to fulfil this state duty, and gives tangible practical effect to the right to effective remedy for victims.&nbsp;<span>Indeed, it is a plea being made by international and European human rights bodies and public agencies including the </span><span><a href="https://wcd.coe.int/ViewDoc.jsp?p=&amp;Ref=CM/Rec(2016)3&amp;Language=lanEnglish&amp;Ver=original&amp;BackColorInternet=DBDCF2&amp;BackColorIntranet=FDC864&amp;BackColorLogged=FDC864&amp;direct=true"><span>Council of Europe</span></a><span>, the </span><a href="http://fra.europa.eu/en/opinion/2017/business-human-rights"><span>EU Fundamental Rights Agency</span></a><span>, the </span><a href="http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=uriserv%3AOJ.C_.2014.170.01.0068.01.ENG">European Economic and Social Committee</a><span> as well as a diverse cross-section of civil society and various MEPs.</span></span></p><p><span><span></span></span>By crowning the consumer king, the EU commission ignores the legitimate right to remedy for all other people suffering serious harm occasioned by irresponsible corporate conduct. Europe can still seize the opportunity to make equal the right to effective remedy for all those harmed by business malpractice.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/christine-berry/next-vw-scandal">The next VW scandal</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> openJustice Can Europe make it? uk openJustice Christopher Patz Wed, 20 Dec 2017 06:00:04 +0000 Christopher Patz 115394 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why you've never heard of a Charter that's as important as the Magna Carta https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/guy-standing/why-youve-never-heard-of-charter-thats-as-important-as-magna-carta <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Charter of the Forest was sealed 800 years ago today. Its defence of the property-less and of ‘the commons’, means the Right would prefer to ignore it - and progressives need to celebrate and renew it.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>&nbsp;<span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/ampthill.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/ampthill.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Ampthill Forest, Bedfordshire. <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/ukgardenphotos/6521037921">Flickr/UK Garden Photos</a>, Some rights reserved.</em></p> <p>Eight hundred years ago this month, after the death of a detested king and the defeat of a French invasion in the Battle of Lincoln, one of the foundation stones of the British constitution was laid down. It was the Charter of the Forest, sealed in St Paul’s on November 6, 1217, alongside a shortened Charter of Liberties from 2 years earlier (which became the Magna Carta).</p> <p>The Charter of the Forest was the first environmental charter forced on any government. It was the first to assert the rights of the property-less, of the commoners, and of the commons. It also made a modest advance for feminism, as it coincided with recognition of the rights of widows to have access to means of subsistence and to refuse to be remarried.</p> <p>The Charter has the distinction of having been on the statute books for longer than any other piece of legislation. It was repealed 754 years later, in 1971, by a Tory government. </p> <p>In 2015, while spending lavishly on celebrating the Magna Carta anniversary, the government was asked in a written question in the House of Lords whether it would be celebrating the Charter this year. A Minister of Justice, Lord Faulks, airily dismissed the idea, stating that it was unimportant, without international significance. </p> <p>Yet earlier this year the <a href="https://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_services/law_library_congress/charter_of_the_forest.html">American Bar Association</a> suggested the Charter of the Forest had been a foundation of the American Constitution and that it was more important now than ever before. They were right.</p> <p>It is scarcely surprising that the political Right want to ignore the Charter. It is about the economic rights of the property-less, limiting private property rights and rolling back the enclosure of land, returning vast expanses to the commons. It was remarkably subversive. Sadly, whereas every school child is taught about the Magna Carta, few hear of the Charter. </p> <p>Yet for hundreds of years the Charter led the Magna Carta. It had to be read out in every church in England four times a year. It inspired struggles against enclosure and the plunder of the commons by the monarchy, aristocracy and emerging capitalist class, famously influencing the Diggers and Levellers in the 17th century, and protests against enclosure in the 18th and 19th. </p> <p>At the heart of the Charter, which is hard to understand unless words that have faded from use are interpreted, is the concept of the <em>commons</em> and the need to protect them and to compensate commoners for their loss. It is scarcely surprising that a government that is privatising and commercialising the remaining commons should wish to ignore it.</p> <p>In 1066, William the Conqueror not only distributed parts of the commons to his bandits but also turned large tracts of them into ‘royal forests’ – ie, his own hunting grounds. By the time of the Domesday Book in 1086, there were 25 such forests. William’s successors expanded and turned them into revenue-raising zones to help pay for their wars. By 1217, there were 143 royal forests. </p> <p>The Charter achieved a reversal, and forced the monarchy to recognise the right of free men and women to pursue their livelihoods in forests. The notion of forest was much broader than it is today, and included villages and areas with few trees, such as Dartmoor and Exmoor. The forest was where commoners lived and worked collaboratively. </p> <p>The Charter has 17 articles, which assert the eternal right of free men and women to work on their own volition in ways that would yield all elements of subsistence on the commons, including such basics as the right to pick fruit, the right to gather wood for buildings and other purposes, the right to dig and use clay for utensils and housing, the right to pasture animals, the right to fish, the right to take peat for fuel, the right to water, and even the right to take honey.</p> <p>The Charter should be regarded as one of the most radical in our history, since it asserted the right of commoners to obtain raw materials and the means of production, and gave specific meaning to the right to work.</p> <p>It also set in train the development of local councils and judiciary, notably through the system of Verderers, which paved the way for magistrate courts. In modern parlance, it extended agency freedom, giving commoners voice in managing the commons, as well as system freedom, by opposing enclosure. </p> <p>The Charter set the foundation for what is now called the <em>communal stewardship</em> of pooled assets and resources. Its ethos is the antithesis of the Government’s pretentious Natural Capital Committee, which is trying to capitalise the natural commons, to make them ‘profitable’. The commons exist for a way of living, not profits.</p> <p>Over the centuries, the ethos of the Charter has been under constant attack. The Tudors were the most egregious, with Henry VIII confiscating ten million acres and disbursing them to favourites, the descendants of whom still possess hundreds of thousands of acres. The enclosure act of 1845 was another mass landgrab, mocking the pretensions of private property rights. <a href="http://www.thelandmagazine.org.uk/articles/short-history-enclosure-britain">Between 1760 and 1870, over 4,000 acts of Parliament, instituted by a landowning elite, confiscated seven million acres of commons</a>. It is no exaggeration to say that <a href="http://www.labourland.org/downloads/papers/WhoOwnsPaper.pdf">the land ownership structure of Britain today is the result of organised theft</a>.</p> <p>Despite having endured centuries of abuse, the ethos of the Charter is still alive. But one feature of the neo-liberal economic paradigm that has shaped recent governments is a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/stuart-weir/britain-is-not-just-%E2%80%98undergoing-privatisation%E2%80%99-this-is-modern-enclosure-movem">disregard for the commons, which the current British government has turned into a plunder under cover of the ‘austerity’ terminology</a>. In the USA, the Trump administration has <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/trump-order-review-protected-federal-lands-n751021">quietly prepared for the giveaway of millions of acres of federal commons</a>. </p> <p>For neo-liberals, the commons have no price, and therefore no value. So, they can be sold for windfall gains, or given away to their backers. By asserting the right to subsistence on the commons, the Charter recognised an alternative principle, something our ancestors defended with courage. We must do so now. We must resist the plunder of the commons and revive them.</p> <p>A group is organising a series of events to do so. Everybody is free to join. Developing national and localised Charters of the Commons should go alongside the worthy Charter of Trees, Woods and People that will be issued on the anniversary day. Our modest efforts will not only emphasise environmental principles enshrined in the Charter, but also its subversive commitment to the right to subsistence that underpins the basic income movement of today.</p> <p>The campaign began with an event laden with symbolism, a barge trip on the Thames from Windsor to Runnymede on September 17, where a public event highlighting the need for a Charter of the Commons was held under the awesome 2,500 year old Ankerwycke yew. The Runnymede meadow symbolises the commons. An earlier Tory government tried to privatise it, but an occupy movement organised by Britain’s first woman barrister succeeded in blocking the auction. </p> <p>The barge trip’s symbolism does not stop there. Margaret Thatcher privatised our water in 1989. She gave nine corporations regional monopolies and gave them over 400,000 acres from the commons. Today, those corporations, mostly foreign owned, are among the country’s largest 50 landowners. They mock the principles of the Charter of the Forest. Thames Water, while paying its foreign shareholders £1.6 billion, has been convicted and had its hands slapped for pouring <a href="https://www.standard.co.uk/news/crime/thames-water-faces-record-fine-over-pumping-1-billion-litres-of-sewage-into-thames-a3492811.html">1.4 billion tonnes of untreated sewage into the Thames</a>, and is also <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/65e8979e-af3d-11e7-beba-5521c713abf4">doing too little to fix leaks</a>. The Charter asserted that the commoners had the right to water. It should be a public good, and be renationalised as a matter of high priority.</p> <p>As well as an event in Sherwood Forest emphasising fracking, there is an event in Durham, where one of the two originals of the Charter is preserved. </p> <p>And on November 7, a meeting in the House of Commons will discuss a draft Charter of the Commons. In Lincoln, where the other original Charter is held, the Labour Party is organising an event on November 11. </p> <p>Further information can be obtained from<strong> </strong><a href="http://www.charteroftheforest800.org/">www.charteroftheforest800.org</a><strong> </strong>. If any organisation feels their agenda is relevant and that has not been contacted, let us know. We want all voices to be heard, all commoners to stand up and all of us to remember that reviving the commons is about recovering the future.</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk openJustice Guy Standing Mon, 06 Nov 2017 10:02:05 +0000 Guy Standing 114473 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Upholding the Rule of Law in the European Union https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/barbara-spinelli-et-al/upholding-rule-of-law-in-european-union <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>An open letter concerning the upholding of the Rule of Law in the European Union, co-signed by 188 scholars, politicians, public intellectuals and members of the European Parliament and sent on November 3, 2017. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/albena-azmanova-barbara-spinelli-co-signatories/la-defensa-del-estado-de-derecho-">Español.</a>&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/albena-azmanova-barbara-spinelli-co-signatories/la-defensa-de-lestat-de-dret-la-uni-europea">Catalan</a>.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-33359136.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-33359136.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>European Council President Donald Tusk and President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker attend a press conference in Brussels, Belgium, on Oct. 19, 2017. Ye Pingfan/ Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>OPEN LETTER TO COMMISSION PRESIDENT JUNCKER AND EUROPEAN COUNCIL PRESIDENT TUSK cc. First Vice-President Frans Timmermans on upholding the rule of law in the European Union.</p><p>3 November 2017</p> <p>Dear President Juncker, dear President Tusk:</p> <p>We are scholars, politicians, public intellectuals and members of the European Parliament writing to you with the following concern:</p> <p>The European Union has proclaimed the Rule of Law principle and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms to be binding on its Member States (Articles 2 and 6 of the Lisbon Treaty). The EU’s leadership has been a staunch protector of these fundamental norms, most recently in countering the Polish government’s attempts to undermine the independence of judges as well as the Hungarian government’s actions to limit civil society and media freedoms.<br /> <br />However, we are deeply concerned that the EU’s governing bodies are condoning the violation of the Rule of Law in Spain, in particular regarding the Spanish central authorities’ approach to the 1 October referendum on Catalan independence. We&nbsp;do not take political sides on the substance of the dispute on territorial sovereignty and we are cognizant of procedural deficiencies in the organisation of the referendum. Our concern is with the Rule of Law as practised by an EU Member State.</p> <p>The Spanish government has justified its actions on grounds of upholding or restoring the constitutional order. The Union has declared that this is an internal matter for Spain. Issues of national sovereignty are indeed a matter of domestic politics in liberal democracies. However, the <em>manner </em>in which the Spanish authorities have been handling the claims to independence expressed by a significant part of the population of Catalonia constitutes a violation of the Rule of Law, namely:<br /> <br />1/ The Spanish Constitutional Tribunal banned the referendum on Catalan independence scheduled for 1 October, as well as the Catalan Parliament session scheduled for 9 October, on grounds that these planned actions violate Article 2 of the Spanish Constitution stipulating the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation, thus rendering secession illegal. However, in enforcing in this way Article 2, the Tribunal has violated Constitutional provisions on freedom of peaceful assembly and of speech – the two principles which are embodied by referendums and parliamentary deliberations irrespective of their subject matter. Without interfering in Spanish constitutional disputes or in Spain’s penal code, we note that it is a travesty of justice to enforce one constitutional provision by violating fundamental rights. Thus, the Tribunal’s judgments and the Spanish government’s actions for which these judgments provided a legal basis violate both the spirit and letter of the Rule of Law.<br /> <br />2/ In the days preceding the referendum, the Spanish authorities undertook a series of repressive actions against civil servants, MPS, mayors, media, companies and citizens. The shutdown of Internet and other telecom networks during and after the referendum campaign had severe consequences on exercising freedom of expression.<br /> <br />&nbsp;3/ On referendum day, the Spanish police engaged in excessive force and violence against peaceful voters and demonstrators – according to Human Rights Watch. Such disproportionate use of force is an undisputable abuse of power in the process of law enforcement.</p> <p>&nbsp;4/ The arrest and imprisonment on 16 October of the activists Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez (Presidents, respectively, of the Catalan National Assembly and Omnium Cultural) on charges of sedition is a miscarriage of justice. The facts resulting in this incrimination cannot possibly be qualified as sedition, but rather as the free exercise of the right to peaceful public manifestation, codified in article 21 of the Spanish Constitution.</p> <p>The Spanish government, in its efforts to safeguard the sovereignty of the state and indivisibility of the nation, has violated basic rights and freedoms guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as by Articles 2 and 6 of the basic law of the EU (the Lisbon Treaty). <em>The violation of basic rights and freedoms protected by international and EU law cannot be an internal affair of any government. The silence of the EU and its rejection of inventive mediation is unjustifiable.</em> </p> <p>The actions of the Spanish government cannot be justified as protecting the Rule of Law, even if based on specific legal provisions. In contrast to rule-by-law (rule by means of norms enacted through a correct legal procedure or issued by a public authority), Rule of Law implies also the safeguarding of fundamental rights and freedoms – norms which render the law binding not simply because it is procedurally correct but enshrines justice. It is the Rule of Law, thus understood, that provides legitimacy to public authority in liberal democracies.</p> <p>We therefore call on the Commission to examine the situation in Spain under the Rule of Law framework, as it has done previously for other Member States.</p> <p>The EU leadership has reiterated that violence cannot be an instrument in politics, yet it has implicitly condoned the actions of the Spanish police and has deemed the actions of the Spanish government to be in line with the Rule of Law. Such a reductionist, maimed version of the Rule of Law should not become Europe’s new political common sense. It is dangerous and risks causing long-term damage to the Union. We therefore call on the European Council and Commission to do all that is necessary to restore the Rule of Law principle to its status as a foundation of liberal democracy in Europe by countering any form of abuse of power committed by Member States. Without this, and without a serious effort of political mediation, the EU risks losing its citizens’ trust and commitment.</p> <p>The crisis has in the meantime developed further&nbsp;(the Catalan government was detained, arrest warrant was issued against Mr Puigdemont). We follow closely the situation with the interests of democracy in Catalonia, Spain and Europe in mind, as they cannot be separated, and we insist all the more on the importance for the EU to monitor the respect of fundamental freedoms by all parties.</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; ***</p><p><em>On the initiative of Albena Azmanova (University of Kent) and Barbara Spinelli (writer, Member of the European Parliament)</em><span></span></p> <p><span>Co-signatories (in personal capacity): </span></p><p><em>Etienne Balibar, </em><em>université Paris Nanterre </em><em>and Kingston University London</em></p> <p><em>David Gow, editor, Social Europe </em></p> <p><em>Kalypso Nicolaidis, Oxford University, Director of the Center for International Studies </em></p> <p><em>Mark&nbsp;Davis, University of Leeds, Founding Director of the Bauman Institute</em></p> <p><em>Cristina Lafont, Northwestern University (Spanish citizen)</em></p> <p><em>Ash Amin, Cambridge University </em></p> <p><em>Yanis Varoufakis, DiEM25 co-founder</em></p> <p><em>Rosemary Bechler, editor, openDemocracy </em></p> <p><em>Gustavo Zagrebelsky professor of constitutional law, University of Turin</em></p> <p><em>Antonio Negri, Philosopher, Euronomade platform</em></p> <p><em>Costas Douzinas, Birkbeck, University of London </em></p> <p><em>Robert Menasse, writer, Austria </em></p> <p><em>Dimitrios Papadimoulis, Vice President of the European Parliament (GUE-NGL)</em></p> <p><em>Ulrike Guérot, </em><em>Danube University Krems, Austria &amp; Founder of the European Democracy Lab, Berlin</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>Judith Butler,&nbsp;University of California, Berkeley and European Graduate School, Switzerland</em></p> <p><em>Philip Pettit, University Center for Human Values,&nbsp;Princeton University (Irish citizen) </em></p> <p><em>Josep-Maria Terricabras, Member of European Parliament (Greens/EFA)</em></p> <p><em>Hauke Brunkhorst, University of Flensburg</em></p> <p><em>Judit Carrera, Centre for Contemporary Culture of Barcelona</em></p> <p><em>Gabriele Zimmer, Member of European Parliament (President, GUE/NGL)</em></p> <p><em>Philippe Schmitter, European University Institute, Florence</em></p> <p><em>Bart Staes, Member of European Parliament (Flemish Greens)</em></p> <p><em>Marie-Christine Vergiat, Member of European Parliament (GUE-NGL)</em></p> <p><em>Jón Baldvin Hannibalsson, former minister for foreign affairs and external trade of Iceland&nbsp; </em><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>Diana Wallis, former Vice President of the European Parliament </em></p> <p><em>Craig Calhoun, President, Berggruen Institute; Centennial Professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)</em></p> <p><em>Jane Mansbridge, </em><em>Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University</em></p> <p><em>Josu Juaristi Abaunz, Member of European Parliament (GUE-NGL)</em></p> <p><em>Alyn Smith, Member of the European Parliament (Greens/EFA)</em></p> <p><em>Thor Gylfason, University of Iceland and Research Fellow at CESifo, Munich/former member Iceland Constitutional Council 2011 </em></p> <p><em>Jordi Solé, Member of European Parliament (Greens/EFA)</em></p> <p><em>Judith Revel, Université Paris Nanterre</em></p> <p><em>Seyla Benhabib, </em><em>Yale University; Catedra Ferrater Mora Distinguished Professor in Girona (2005)</em></p> <p><em>Arjun Appadurai, </em><em>Institute for European Ethnology, Humboldt University, Berlin</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>Susan Buck-Morss, CUNY Graduate Center and Cornell University</em></p> <p><em>Ramon Tremosa i Balcells, Member of European Parliament (Alde)</em></p> <p><em>Anastasia Nesvetailova, Director, City Political Economy Research Centre, City University of London</em></p> <p><em>Nancy Fraser, The New School for Social Research, New York (International Research Chair in Social Justice, Collège d’études mondiales, Paris, 2011-2016)</em></p> <p><em>Jill Evans, Member of the European Parliament (Greens/EFA)</em></p> <p><em>Regina Kreide, Justus Liebig University, Giessen </em></p> <p><em>Jodi Dean, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva NY</em></p> <p><em>Tatjana Zdnoka, Member of the European Parliament (Greens/EFA)</em></p> <p><em>Wendy Brown, University of California, Berkley</em></p> <p><em>Roberta De Monticelli, University San Raffaele, Milan.</em></p> <p><em>Sophie Wahnich, directrice de recherche CNRS, Paris</em></p> <p><em>Christoph Menke, University of Potsdam, Germany</em></p> <p><em>Tanja Fajon, Member of the European Parliament (S&amp;D)</em></p> <p><em>Robin Celikates, University of Amsterdam&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>Eric Fassin, Université Paris-8 Vincennes - Saint-Denis</em></p> <p><em>Paul Molac, Member of the French Parliament (écologiste)</em></p> <p><em>Alexis Cukier, Université Paris Nanterre</em></p> <p><em>Diogo Sardinha, </em><em>university Paris/Lisbon</em></p> <p><em>Luke Ming Flanagan, Member of the European Parliament (GUE-NGL)</em></p> <p><em>Dario Castiglione, University of Exeter</em></p> <p><em>Hamit Bozarslan, EHESS, Paris &nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>Frieder Otto Wolf, Freie Universität Berlin</em></p> <p><em>Gerard Delanty, University of Sussex</em></p> <p><em>Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Coimbra University and University of Wisconsin-Madison</em></p> <p><em>Sandro Mezzadra, Università di Bologna </em></p> <p><em>Camille Louis, University of Paris 8 and Paris D</em></p> <p><em>Philippe Aigrain, writer and publisher</em></p> <p><em>Yann Moulier Boutang and Frederic Brun, Multitudes journal</em></p> <p><em>Anne Querrien and Yves Citton</em><em>, Multitudes journal</em></p> <p><em>Bruce Robbins, Columbia University</em></p> <p><em>Michèle Riot-Sarcey, université Paris-VIII-Saint-Denis</em></p> <p><em>Zeynep Gambetti, Bogazici University, Istanbul (French citizen)</em></p> <p><em>Andrea den Boer, University of Kent, Editor-in-Chief, Global Society: Journal of Interdisciplinary International Relations</em></p> <p><em>Moni Ovadia, writer and theatre performer</em></p> <p><em>Merja Kyllönen, Member of the European Parliament (GUE/NGL)</em></p> <p><em>Guillaume Sibertin-Blanc, Université Paris 8 Saint-Denis&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>Peter Osborne, Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy, Kingston University, London</em></p> <p><em>Ilaria Possenti, University of Verona</em></p> <p><em>Nicola Lampitelli, University of Tours, France</em></p> <p><em>Yutaka Arai, University of Kent</em></p> <p><em>Enzo Rossi, University of Amsterdam, Co-editor,&nbsp;European Journal of Political Theory</em></p> <p><em>Petko Azmanov, journalist, Bulgaria</em></p> <p><em>Etienne Tassin, Université Paris Diderot</em></p> <p><em>Lynne Segal, </em><em>Birkbeck College, University of London</em></p> <p><em>Danny Dorling, University of Oxford&nbsp; </em></p> <p><em>Maggie Mellon, social policy consultant, former executive member Women for Independence&nbsp; </em></p> <p><em>Vanessa Glynn, </em><em>Former UK diplomat at UKRep to EU</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>Alex Orr, exec mbr, Scottish National Party/European Movement in Scotland </em></p> <p><em>Bob Tait, philosopher, ex-chair Langstane Housing Association, Aberdeen&nbsp; </em></p> <p><em>Isobel Murray, Aberdeen University</em></p> <p><em>Grahame Smith, general secretary, Scottish Trades Union Congress </em></p> <p><em>Igor Šoltes, Member of the European Parliament (Greens/EFA)</em></p> <p><em>Pritam Singh, Oxford Brookes University </em></p> <p><em>John Weeks, SOAS, University of London&nbsp; </em></p> <p><em>Jordi Angusto, economist at Fundació Catalunya-Europa&nbsp; </em></p> <p><em>Leslie Huckfield, ex-Labour MP, Glasgow Caledonian University </em></p> <p><em>Ugo Marani, University of Naples Federico II and President of RESeT&nbsp; </em></p> <p><em>Gustav Horn, Scientific Director of the Macroeconomic Policy Institute of the Hans Böckler Stiftung&nbsp; </em></p> <p><em>Chris Silver, journalist/author&nbsp; </em></p> <p><em>François Alfonsi, President of EFA (European Free Alliance)</em></p> <p><em>James Mitchell, Edinburgh University </em></p> <p><em>Harry Marsh, retired charity CEO&nbsp; </em></p> <p><em>Desmond Cohen, former Dean, School of Social Sciences at Sussex University </em></p> <p><em>Yan Islam, Griffith Asia Institute </em></p> <p><em>David Whyte, University of Liverpool</em></p> <p><em>Katy Wright, University of Leeds</em></p> <p><em>Adam Formby, University of Leeds&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>Nick Piper, University of Leeds</em></p> <p><em>Matilde Massó Lago, The University of A Coruña and University of Leeds</em></p> <p><em>Jim Phillips, University of Glasgow</em></p> <p><em>Rizwaan Sabir, Liverpool John Moores University</em></p> <p><em>Pablo Ciocchini, University of Liverpool</em></p> <p><em>Feyzi Ismail, SOAS, University of London</em></p> <p><em>Kirsteen Paton, University of Liverpool</em></p> <p><em>Stefanie Khoury, University of Liverpool&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>Xavier Rubio-Campillo, University of Edinburgh</em></p> <p><em>Joe Sim, Liverpool John Moores University</em></p> <p><em>Paul Molac, Member of the French Parliament</em></p> <p><em>Hannah Wilkinson, University of Keele</em></p> <p><em>Gareth Dale, Brunel University</em></p> <p><em>Robbie Turner, University of St Andrews</em></p> <p><em>Will Jackson, Liverpool John Moores University</em></p> <p><em>Louise Kowalska, ILTUS Ruskin University </em></p> <p><em>Alexia Grosjean, Honorary member, School of History, University of St Andrews</em></p> <p><em>Takis Hadjigeorgiou, Member of the European Parliament (GUE-NGL)</em></p> <p><em>Paul&nbsp;McFadden, York University</em></p> <p><em>Matthias E. Storme, Catholic University of Leuven</em></p> <p><em>Phil Scraton, Queen's University Belfast</em></p> <p><em>Oscar Berglund, University of Bristol</em></p> <p><em>Michael Lavalette, Liverpool Hope University</em></p> <p><em>Owen Worth, University of Limerick</em></p> <p><em>Ronnie Lippens, Keele University</em></p> <p><em>Zoë Dingwall, political adviser EFA (European Free Alliance)</em></p> <p><em>Andrew Watterson, Stirling University</em></p> <p><em>Steve Tombs, The Open University</em></p> <p><em>Emily Luise Hart, University of&nbsp;Liverpool</em></p> <p><em>David Scott, The Open University</em></p> <p><em>Anders Eriksson, bureau EFA (European Free Alliance), European Parliament </em></p> <p><em>Bill Bowring, Birkbeck College, University of London</em></p> <p><em>Sofa Gradin, King’s College London</em></p> <p><em>Michael Harrison, University of South Wales</em></p> <p><em>Ana Manzano-Santaella, University of Leeds</em></p> <p><em>Noëlle McAfee, Emory University</em></p> <p><em>Peter J. Verovšek, University of Sheffield&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>Peter Dews, University of Essex</em></p> <p><em>Martin Matuštík, Arizona State University </em></p> <p><em>Camil Ungureanu, Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>Dafydd Huw Rees&nbsp;, Cardiff University</em></p> <p><em>Patrick Le Hyaric, Member of the European Parliament (GUE-NGL)</em></p> <p><em>Hans-Peter Krüger, University of Potsdam&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>Loren Goldman,&nbsp;University of Pennsylvania</em></p> <p><em>Federica Gregoratto, University of St.Gallen</em></p> <p><em>Rurion Soares Melo, Universidade de São Paulo</em></p> <p><em>Pieter Duvenage, Cardiff University and editor, Journal for Contemporary History</em></p> <p><em>Chad Kautzer, Lehigh University</em></p> <p><em>Peter A. Kraus, University of Augsburg</em></p> <p><em>David Ingram, Loyola University &nbsp;of Chicago</em></p> <p><em>Alain-G. Gagnon, Université du Québec à Montréal</em></p> <p><em>Peter Bußjäger, </em><em>Institut für Föderalismus, </em><em>Innsbruck</em></p> <p><em>Nelly Maes, Former Member of the European Parliament, former President of European Free Alliance</em></p> <p><em>Helmut Scholz, Member of the European Parliament (GUE/NGL)</em></p> <p><em>Michel Seymour, Université de Montréal</em></p> <p><em>Simon Toubeau, University of Nottingham</em><em></em></p> <p><em>Georg Kremnitz, Universität Wien</em><em></em></p> <p><em>Keith Gerard Breen, Queen’s University Belfast</em></p> <p><em>Alan Price, Swansea University</em></p> <p><em>Fernando Ramallo, Universidade de Vigo</em></p> <p><em>Nicolas Levrat, University of Geneva, Director of the International Law Department</em></p> <p><em>Jordi Matas, Professor of Political Science, University of Barcelona</em></p> <p><em>Simon Toubeau, University of Nottingham</em></p> <p><em>María Pilar García Negro, University of Coruña</em></p> <p><em>María do Carme García Negro, University of Santiago de Compostela </em></p> <p><em>Francisco Rodríguez, writer</em></p> <p><em>Carme Fernández Pérez-Sanjulián, University of Coruña</em></p> <p><em>Patrice Poujade, Université de Perpignan</em></p> <p><em>Colin H Williams, Cardiff and Cambridge &nbsp;University</em></p> <p><em>Nicolas Berjoan, Université de Perpignan</em></p> <p><em>Joan Peitavi, Université de Perpignan</em></p> <p><em>Alà Baylac-Ferrer, Université de Perpignan</em></p> <p><em>Guglielmo Cevolin, University of Udine</em></p> <p><em>Robert Louvin, Professor of Comparatve Law, University of Calabria</em></p> <p><em>Günther Dauwen, Secretary General of the Centre Maurits Coppieters</em></p> <p><em>Bart Maddens, Catholic University of Leuven</em></p> <p><em>Alan Sandry, Swansea University </em></p> <p><em>Justo Serrano Zamora, Bavarian School of Public Policy</em></p> <p><em>Ivo Vajgl,&nbsp;Member of the European Parliament (Alde)</em></p> <p><em>Alberto Aziz Nassif, Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social, México</em></p> <p><em>Sandrina Antunes, University of Minho, Portugal </em></p> <p><em>Pablo Beramendi, Duke University</em></p> <p><em>Nico Krisch, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva</em></p> <p><em>Miguel Urbán Crespo, Member of the European Parliament (GUE/NGL)</em></p><p><em>Yasha Maccanico, University of Bristol and "Statewatch" </em></p> <p><em>Thierry Dominic, l'Université de Bordeaux</em></p><p><em>Richard Norton-Taylor writer on defence and security, trustee of Liberty</em></p><p><em>Paola Pietrandrea, Université François Rabelais de Tours, and DiEM25<br /></em></p> <p><em>Josep Ramoneda, philosopher and writer, Catalonia/Spain</em></p><p><em>José Luís&nbsp;Rodrigues, DiEM25, Portugal</em></p><p><em>Marie Pierre Vieu, member of the European Parliament, (GUE/NGL)</em></p><p><em>Geneviève Fraisse, Centre national de la recherche scientifique, France (CNRS)</em></p><p><em>Sandra Halperin, Director, Centre for Islamic and West Asian Studies,&nbsp; Royal Holloway, University of London,</em></p><p><em>Mario&nbsp;Diani, University of&nbsp;<a href="https://maps.google.com/?q=Trento+Via+Verdi+26+38122+Trento+Italy&amp;entry=gmail&amp;source=g" target="_blank">Trento</a></em></p><p><em>Angelina Ilieva, Chicago University</em></p><p><em>Elettra Stimilli, la Sapienza Università di Roma</em></p><p><em>Yves Sintomer, Université de Paris 8</em></p><p><em></em></p><p><em>Donatella&nbsp;della&nbsp;Porta, Director of Centre of Social Movements Studies, Scuola Normale Superiore, Florence</em></p><p>If you would like to sign a version of this letter, please see the petition on <a href="https://www.change.org/p/carta-abierta-al-presidente-de-la-comisi%C3%B3n-juncker-y-al-presi-del-consejo-europeo-tusk-defender-el-estado-de-derecho-en-la-uni%C3%B3n-europea-open-letter-to-commission-president-juncker-and-european-council-president-tusk-upholding-the-rule-of-law-in-the-">Change.org</a>.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>See the reply <a href="https://www.politico.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/FinalLetter.pdf?utm_source=POLITICO.EU&amp;utm_campaign=7ca7b869da-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_11_22&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_10959edeb5-7ca7b869da-189598089">open letter from 292 academics</a> in their personal capacity launched by Francesc de Carreras and Josu de Miguel, both professors at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Spain </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? EU Spain Catalonia openJustice co-signatories Barbara Spinelli Albena Azmanova Sat, 04 Nov 2017 08:08:27 +0000 Albena Azmanova, Barbara Spinelli and co-signatories 114449 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Do we have a right to justice? https://www.opendemocracy.net/openjustice/oliver-carter/do-we-have-right-to-justice <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As new research reveals the devastating impact of legal aid cuts, Labour is considering not only reversing some of those cuts but enshirining in law our right to justice.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/justice-2071539.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/justice-2071539.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>From 2009/2010, there has been an 84% reduction in the number of civil cases funded by legal aid. Image: Edward Lich. Pixabay/Creative Commons CC0. </span></span></span></p><p>Do we have a right to justice? And, if we do, does it include the right to publicly funded legal representation to ensure that we have genuine <em>access</em> to justice?<br /> <br /> Labour might be about to answer these questions in the affirmative by endorsing a new Right to Justice Act, as proposed in a report launched at the party conference in Brighton this week by an independent commission chaired by Labour peer Lord Willy Bach (the report can be downloaded <a href="http://www.fabians.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Access-to-Justice_final_web.pdf" target="_blank">here</a>). The Bach Commission on Access to Justice was formed shortly after the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader in order to carry out a comprehensive review of legal aid, following drastic cuts made by the Coalition government.<br /> <br /> <em><strong>The right to justice</strong></em><br /> <br /> In its report, <em><a href="http://www.fabians.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Bach-Commission_Right-to-Justice-Report-WEB.pdf" target="_blank">The Right to Justice</a></em>, the Commission recommends a Right to Justice Act to establish an enforceable right “<em>for individuals to receive reasonable legal assistance without costs they cannot afford</em>”. The report also calls for the creation of a Justice Commission to monitor and enforce the right to justice, and for reform of the financial eligibility and scope rules for legal aid to create a simpler, more generous system which enables many more people to access publicly funded legal help.</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">The radical proposals are intended to "help lift the provision of justice above the political fray”.</span><br /> The Commission believes that its radical proposals would “<em>create a new legal framework that will, over time, transform access to justice</em>”. All of this is, according to Lord Bach, intended to “<em>help lift the provision of justice above the political fray</em>” and return to the consensus on access to justice that existed for decades after the modern legal aid system was introduced as part of the post-war welfare state.<br /> <br /> <em><strong>A crisis in our justice system</strong></em><br /> <br /> But why is a new right to justice necessary? As the report notes, “<em>an effective legal system in which all can access justice fairly is the cornerstone of a free society</em>”, and without access to justice, trust in institutions and the rule of law is at risk of breaking down. There is, however, a “<em>crisis in our justice system</em>”. <br /> <br /> As part of its post-financial crisis austerity agenda, the Coalition government reduced the budget of the Ministry of Justice by 34% between 2010-11 and 2015-16. The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) was introduced to implement swingeing cuts to legal aid, removing vast areas of social welfare law – including most debt, benefits, housing, employment and immigration advice – from the scope of legal aid.<br /> <br /> The result of this was a devastating 84% reduction in the number of civil (i.e. non-criminal) cases funded by legal aid, from 933,815 cases in 2009-10 to just 146,618 in 2016-17. Hundreds of thousands of people each year are denied access to justice as a result of the Coalition’s cuts to legal aid. <br /> <br /> As damaging as LASPO was, it should be emphasised – as the Bach Commission itself acknowledges – that the crisis in access to justice did not begin with the Coalition government. <br /> <br /> When the Legal Aid and Advice Act 1949 was passed, it was intended to make legal aid “<em>more readily available for persons of small or moderate means</em>”. However, there has been a huge decrease in the proportion of people who are financially eligible for civil legal aid: in 1980, 80% of households were eligible, but by 2008 that figure had fallen to 29%. It is now likely to be even lower – perhaps as low as 20% – given that the financial means test is not updated to account for inflation.</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">There is an urgent need to “ensure that justice is within the reach of the majority and not just the very wealthy and the very poor”.</span> <em><strong>Restoring legal aid: a blueprint for access to justice policy?</strong></em><br /> <br /> In order to address this ongoing decline in access to justice, <em>The Right to Justice </em>makes recommendations for both urgent and long-term reform. It calls on the government, which is currently in the process of conducting its own review of the cuts to legal aid (due to be completed by the fifth anniversary of LASPO in April 2018), to invest £400m per year on short-term measures including restoring early legal help for all social welfare law, extending financial eligibility for civil legal aid and bringing back into scope all matters concerning legal support for children.<br /> <br /> The Bach Commission accepts that while it “<em>may not be possible to immediately reverse</em>” the decline in legal aid eligibility since 1980, there is an urgent need to “<em>ensure that justice is within the reach of the majority and not just the very wealthy and the very poor</em>”. It therefore proposes that, for now, the aim of government could be to provide publicly funded legal assistance to everyone with a below median income, as was the case in the late 1990s when 53% of the population were eligible for civil legal aid.</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">The Right to Justice Act would codify rights dating back to Magna Carta and include the right to a fair trial guaranteed by Article 6 of the ECHR.</span> In the longer-term, the Commission’s proposed Right to Justice Act would codify existing rights to justice, dating back to Magna Carta and include the right to a fair trial guaranteed by Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as introducing the right to justice, a new individual right to reasonable legal assistance without costs which people cannot afford. This right to justice would be enforceable in court and compliance with the right would be monitored by an independent Justice Commission.<br /> <br /> The bold recommendations in <em>The Right to Justice </em>have the potential to significantly improve access to justice and, as <a href="http://www.younglegalaidlawyers.org/YLALresponserighttojustice" target="_blank">Young Legal Aid Lawyers</a> has said, could form the blueprint for legal aid policy for decades to come. The report merits serious consideration by all political parties and anyone concerned with the future of access to justice. <br /> <br /> In particular, it is incumbent on the government to reflect on the recommendations in <em>The Right to Justice</em> as part of its own review of legal aid; indeed, even the Conservative chair of the Justice Select Committee, Bob Neill, has accepted that the Coalition government <a href="https://twitter.com/neill_bob/status/854731313185775616" target="_blank">“went too far”</a> in cutting legal aid.<br /> <br /> <strong><em>A vision of a fairer justi</em>ce <em>system</em> </strong><br /> <br /> Unfortunately (if unsurprisingly), the initial response by the minister responsible for legal aid, Dominic Raab, was dismissive: “<em>We will continue to focus legal aid on those who most need help, recognising the cost of this support is met by the taxpayer, even as Labour produce yet more unfunded proposals</em>.” <br /> <br /> By contrast – and also perhaps predictably, given that the independent Commission of legal experts was set up at the instigation of Jeremy Corbyn and led by a Labour peer – the response from Labour has been positive. The Shadow Lord Chancellor, Richard Burgon, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/sep/22/conservatives-legal-aid-desert-cuts-bach-commission-right-to-justice-fabian" target="_blank">welcomed</a> <em>The Right to Justice</em> and declared himself “<em>particularly excited by the idea in the report of a new, legally enforceable right to justice to match our rights to healthcare and education</em>”.<br /> <br /> Burgon wrote that the report “<em>will certainly play an important role in informing the debates around Labour’s next manifesto process and our vision of a fairer justice system</em>”. If Labour is now a “<em>government in waiting</em>”, as Jeremy Corbyn is fond of asserting since his party’s performance in the general election in June this year, then the right to justice could soon become a reality. <br /> <br /> <strong><em>Young Legal Aid Lawyers (YLAL) invites you to write to your MP to ask for their response to the recommendations by the Bach Commission on Access to Justice – you can find a template email on the YLAL website <a href="http://www.younglegalaidlawyers.org/YLALresponserighttojustice" target="_blank">here</a>.</em></strong><br /> <em></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/openjustice/geoffrey-bindman/rule-of-law-fights-back">The rule of law fights back</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openjustice/laura-janes/draconian-cuts-to-legal-aid-for-prisoners-found-to-be-unlawful-by-court-of-a">Draconian cuts to legal aid for prisoners found to be unlawful by Court of Appeal </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openjustice/john-nicholson/hope-for-access-to-justice">Hope for access to justice?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> openJustice uk openJustice Justice for the rich alone? (openJustice) Oliver Carter Tue, 26 Sep 2017 08:10:34 +0000 Oliver Carter 113634 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Nowhere to call home: England's 'hidden homeless' https://www.opendemocracy.net/laurie-macfarlane/nowhere-to-call-home-englands-hidden-homeless <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Work as a legal aid housing lawyer throws up all kinds of scenarios. Many of our clients have already been evicted and are homeless. The image of homelessness that most commonly springs to mind is ... </div> </div> </div> Work as a legal aid housing lawyer throws up all kinds of scenarios. Many of our clients have already been evicted and are homeless. The image of homelessness that most commonly springs to mind is rough sleeping, but we spend much time advising and representing the ‘hidden homeless’: meaning those not visible sleeping on the street, but who also have nowhere to call home. They are hidden behind closed doors sleeping on friends’ sofas, crowded into one room of a hostel, they occupy garden sheds, garages and family houses – with one family in each bedroom. They are squeezed into council temporary accommodation units and left in limbo, with no guarantee of when they will be able to move into a permanent home of their own. In July 2017, councils across England were providing temporary housing for around 120,540 children with their families, and this number is rising. Homelessness is triggered by many things. The loss of an assured shorthold tenancy is the number one cause, when private landlords give notice that they want their property back and are not required to give a particular reason. Relationship breakdown, sudden loss of a job, domestic violence, illness, financial difficulties and innumerable unexpected life events all contribute to people losing their home. <blockquote>"They are hidden behind closed doors sleeping on friends’ sofas, crowded into one room of a hostel, they occupy garden sheds, garages and family houses – with one family in each bedroom"</blockquote> It is not a simple matter to find a new home after a becoming homeless. Finding affordable private rented housing is becoming harder all the time as rents rise but housing benefit levels remain frozen. The waiting lists for council and social housing are enormous. Private landlords are increasingly unwilling to let their properties to those on low incomes or benefits, some specifically stating that they will not even consider tenants who will need to apply for housing benefit to help them pay their rent. Welfare reform has also contributed to the dysfunctional housing system – the new scheme of Universal Credit has dealt a devastating blow to renters, as new claims often take 8 weeks or more to process. So tenants are unable to pay their rent for at least 2-3 months, and what landlord will tolerate that? People who have searched in vain to rehouse themselves are often left with no alternative but to turn to their council offices to request urgent help. However, they are not always treated lawfully – or with respect. It is true that local authorities are under immense pressure with tightened budgets and reduced housing stock available to them. A recent BBC2 documentary ‘No Place to Call Home’ showed one housing officer in Barking &amp; Dagenham describing their department as ‘a housing options service without any options,’ as the demand for their services severely outweighed the supply. However, this lack of resources is often translated into scare tactics to deter people requesting housing help from their council. I have seen a range of different responses from authorities across the country. Applicants are often handed a long list of documents and informed that before any help will be provided, they must produce all the documents on the list. One homeless client I advised who was (very obviously) 9 months pregnant was initially not permitted to make an urgent homeless application, as the documents she had produced did not include a doctor’s note to confirm she was pregnant.  Another pregnant, 18 year old client was inexplicably informed that her application for urgent housing could not be processed because her father’s name was not on her birth certificate. Young people are frequently passed between housing and social services departments, or between different authorities when neither wants to take responsibility for giving assistance. <a href="http://www.lgo.org.uk/information-centre/news/2012/aug/kent-amp-dover-councils-criticised-for-inexcusable-failures-over-homeless-teenager">One 16 year old client</a> approached his council for help after he was forced to leave home. He spent 9 months sleeping rough in a tent whilst social services and housing argued about who should help him. A single mother came to me with two young children, bleary-eyed and covered in insect bites, having spent a few weeks living in a garden shed. The council had evicted them after my client had to spend some unexpected time out of the country to care for her sick mother. They had returned to the council to ask for assistance, but none was forthcoming and so the shed was their only option. When legally challenged, the council relented and reluctantly provided the family with accommodation that was far too small (no room for enough beds) and was 2 hours away from the client’s place of work and her children’s school. When the council was challenged again, the response was irritable – what on earth was the problem now?  We weren’t asking for the moon, just a decent home within a reasonable travelling distance from school and work. <blockquote>"Young people are frequently passed between housing and social services departments, or between different authorities when neither wants to take responsibility for giving assistance"</blockquote> Some homeless families are threatened with separation from their children, when they cannot get assistance from the local housing authority and are compelled to turn to social services. Families who present as homeless are frequently told that they cannot be housed together, but instead their children will be taken into care. It’s an effective way of scaring families away from the council offices. This often happens when families are not owed duties by the housing department (for example they may be deemed to be ‘intentionally homeless’ due to rent arrears and eviction). Social services have duties to assist children in need – which can include helping to house a homeless family together, perhaps by way of helping with a rent deposit.  There are often no child protection issues save for their homelessness, which can and should be resolved without the far more expensive and inappropriate threat of foster care. One client found herself homeless when she built up rent arrears in the midst of trying to resolve some difficult personal circumstances.  With a low wage cleaning job and a 9 year old autistic son to care for, social services were her safety net, as her homeless application failed and she could not find a landlord who would accept housing benefit. To heap further distress on the already humiliating experience of having to ask for help in the first place, she was told forcefully at her first interview that she could not be assisted, but her son would be taken into care. Her son was present and became understandably terrified.  Her fear of losing him resulted in them both sleeping in her car for several nights before she obtained legal advice. I have known ’hidden homeless’ clients, including lone teenagers and families with children, ask for help with housing, but end up resorting to sleeping on night buses, in hospital A &amp; E waiting rooms, in fast food restaurants, train stations and in cars.  They stay on friends’ sofas and move on when they outstay their welcome. Their lives are in a constant state of flux, living out of boxes and paying extortionate fees to storage companies. The children cannot sleep properly, they have nowhere to bring their friends to play, they have no space to do their homework and their school work suffers. Their experiences will impact them forever. Different organisations, community groups and individuals often help where they can. This help varies from homeless cold weather shelters to the offer of a spare bed for a few nights. It sometimes takes the form of a hot meal at a community centre, a foodbank voucher or an advocate to attend the council offices and provide support with navigating ‘the system.’  Housing lawyers will of course continue to step in and provide legal advice on a case by case basis to help resolve homelessness, but this must be accompanied by policy change on a wider scale, if the numbers of hidden homeless are to decrease and their experiences of statutory services improve. Legal aid law firms and charities like Shelter cannot and should not be relied on to keep picking up the pieces one by one when people fall through the gaps. <blockquote>"Different organisations, community groups and individuals often help where they can. This help varies from homeless cold weather shelters to the offer of a spare bed for a few nights."</blockquote> Housing benefit rates must increase in line with the level of rents and the government and housing sector must work to increase the supply of genuinely affordable housing.  The introduction of new legislation such as the imminent Homelessness Reduction Act is a welcome sea change in the direction of early intervention to ensure homelessness is prevented or relieved, but for the Act to have teeth and for prevention to truly take place, there must also be affordable homes for people to move into. In the aftermath of the terrible Grenfell fire, it is also starkly obvious that change is not just needed in policy and on paper, but in the way we manage our social housing system and treat social tenants and those in need of settled housing.  The sub text permeating through the authorities’ attitudes described in the cases outlined above is that those who need to ask for help with housing have no right to be heard, but should be grateful for what they are given – even if what they are eventually given is a substandard hostel in an unfamiliar area, miles away from jobs and support networks. Following the publication of the Grenfell fire Inquiry terms of reference, the Prime Minister promised that separate consideration would be given as to how best to address the broader issues of social housing raised by the fire – notably, the fact that tenants’ concerns were ignored or left unaddressed for so long and the lack of trust between tenants and the council, along with their Tenant Management Organisation. This is symptomatic of the treatment which is experienced in different ways across the country both by others living in social housing and by those approaching their local council offices for urgent housing help. We cannot allow the commitment to address these broader issues of social housing to be kicked into the long grass, or for the debate to only tinker around the edges. Now is the time to have a meaningful debate about what social housing means, including how those who need to request housing help from their council are treated. Amongst the myriad of housing issues that need to be addressed, action must be taken to ensure that hidden homelessness becomes a thing of the past.<div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk openJustice Jo Underwood Wed, 20 Sep 2017 09:27:55 +0000 Jo Underwood 113493 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Normalising torture https://www.opendemocracy.net/victoria-brittain/normalising-torture <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Body">On impunity, and the erosion of ethics in International Human Rights Law - from Guantanamo to Yemen.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-09-04 at 17.04.54_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-09-04 at 17.04.54_0.png" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="258" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screen shot of Real News coverage of the Mitchell/Jessen confidential legal settlement.</span></span></span>Ten years ago Murat Kurnaz, a Turk from Bremen, wrote these words, in his book <em>Five Years of My Life, an innocent man in Guantanamo. </em>“We have to describe how the doctors came only to check whether we were dead or could stand to be tortured for a little longer.” The words shocked at the time, but since then the appalling details of US torture practices as part of the ”war on terror” and the involvement of the medical profession are well known – published by the US Senate as well as by several of the men who were subjected to them.</p> <p class="Body">Today everyone knows about US torture. Everyone knows it is unethical, illegal, unconstitutional. But the fight for accountability only inches forward. <span class="mag-quote-center">Today everyone knows about US torture. Everyone knows it is unethical, illegal, unconstitutional. But the fight for accountability only inches forward.</span></p> <p class="Body">Two weeks ago in a landmark case against impunity for torture, two US military psychologists reached a confidential settlement with tortured former prisoners rather than face a jury trial which would have begun this week. <em>(ie Sept.5) </em>For many months lawyers for the two men, Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell, had made multiple attempts to have the case dismissed. </p> <p class="Body">There are British precedents for such payoffs to prevent a trial. Six years ago the UK government came to a confidential agreement with former Guantanamo prisoners to keep MI5 and MI6 documents and personnel out of a court case concerning complicity in torture and rendition. Similarly they later paid a Libyan couple who had been victims of rendition rather than face them in court.</p> <p class="Body">The Mitchell/Jessen case is a sharper focus. The two men designed, oversaw, participated, and trained others to carry out the CIA’s torture programme of men which most notably marked the Bush administration’s attack on International Human Rights Law.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Body">The normalisation of torture, and the demonising of Muslim men are among the terrible legacies of the war on terror. Six Muslim countries – Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Yemen – have been militarily devastated when in fact the terror acts of 9/11 should have had a police and legal response. </p> <p class="Body">Instead doctors, other medical personnel, lawyers, bureaucrats, the military and politicians created a lawless jungle as they flouted international law and their own countries’ laws. </p><p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Kurnaz_odg.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Kurnaz_odg.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Murat Kurnaz, former Guantanamo Detainee from Bremen/Germany, 2011. Wikicommons/Oliver Das Gupta. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">The normalisation of torture, and the demonising of Muslim men are among the terrible legacies of the war on terror.</span>Today’s counterterrorism programmes across the world – used almost entirely against Muslims – build on the new norms created by the US and some of its allies. The deeply serious international legal enterprise of Nuremberg and the accompanying UN Conventions 70 years ago, in establishing individual responsibility and accountability for inhuman acts, was to guard us against a degraded world. The <a href="https://www.waterstones.com/book/east-west-street/philippe-sands/9781474601917">spell-binding new book</a> by lawyer Philippe Sands should be required reading for our times.<a href="#_ftn1">[1]</a></p> <h2 class="Body"><strong>Yemen today</strong> </h2> <p class="Body">Yemen today is an example of where we are. For more than two years a Saudi-led coalition, supported by the US, has been bombing and blockading this devastated impoverished country. The uncounted civilian casualties are also suffering from starvation and a rampant cholera epidemic. Thanks to the work of Human Rights Watch, Amnesty and Associated Press we know too that in the name of counterterrorism Yemen today has a network of secret prisons run by United Arab Emirates and Yemeni forces. Torture is routine and US advisers participate in interrogations of suspected Al Qaeda/ISIS prisoners. Some of these men and boys are reportedly interrogated on US ships while others are held in the UAE military base at Assab in Eritrea. </p> <p class="Body">So, we are still in the post-9/11 mode of Muslim men “disappeared” from many countries, held in secret sites across the world, ending up in Guantanamo Bay where some died in hidden CIA torture facilities on that US base. </p> <p class="Body">The Donald Rumsfeld/Dick Cheney/George Bush narrative of “the worst of the worst”….men who “hate our freedoms” ….set a dangerous anti-Muslim tone which has had lasting effects - not least in how the West treats refugees today. The majority of these men had committed no crime against America, as US academic and legal work established more than a decade ago. <span class="mag-quote-center">The majority of these men had committed no crime against America, as US academic and legal work established more than a decade ago.</span></p> <p class="Default">Later this month in a grim victory for the US government’s evolving new counterterrorism practices, a Washington court will hear a case where lawyers have argued unsuccessfully that US constitutional rights were violated. Ahmed Abu Khattala was kidnapped from his home in Libya in 2014 by a secret US Special Forces team and held on board ship for 13 days of interrogation before being charged with 18 counts, including murder in the 2012 attacks in Benghazi that killed US Ambassador Christopher Stevens.</p> <p class="Body">But the Mitchell/Jessen settlement is a landmark precedent. Torturers can be brought some way towards account in the US. The two were paid more than $81 million for their work as contractors to the CIA. They began it in a secret prison in Thailand with a wounded Palestinian, a Saudi citizen. Abu Zubeyda was water boarded 83 times in a month and suffered most of the brutal practices made public in the December 2014 summary of the US Senate report into torture in CIA secret prisons. The Senate report called the practices “brutal and ineffective.”</p> <p class="Body">Zubaydah’s treatment was the template of the “enhanced interrogation techniques” created by Dr Mitchell and Dr Jessen, according to John Rizzo, senior CIA lawyer at the time. Prisoners were kept in small boxes, thrown against walls with a towel round the neck held by the torturer, kept naked with icy water poured over them, forced to hold stress positions, held upright in shackles for days to prevent them sleeping, and worse. None of this was supposed ever to become public knowledge. John Kiriakou, former CIA chief of counterterrorism in Pakistan went to prison for being a whistleblower on waterboarding. Video tapes of the prisoners’ torture, including Abu Zubeydah’s, were ordered destroyed by the CIA’s head of counterterrorism Jose Rodriguez. The Senate report revealed that some of the intelligence officers watching these scenes cried, others left the programme. </p> <p class="Body">Zubeyda had already given important information to the FBI interrogators who stayed with him when he was first captured. The CIA, Mitchell and Jesson were sure there was more to be had, by torture. But Zubeyda had nothing more to tell.</p> <p class="Body">By the end of the year Zubeyda had been shipped to a secret CIA site in Poland. Only years later did the US quietly admit that every charge against Zubaydah was false – he had never been a member of Al Qaeda. FBI officials had known that all along. Astoundingly however today he remains at Guantanamo Bay. The Senate report revealed that Washington had accepted his torturers’ request that if he survived the torture he would never be freed.</p> <p class="Body">Declassified filmed depositions from Jessen and Mitchell, obtained by the NYT and made earlier this year in legal preparations for the case show the men justifying what they did, claiming the experiences in their programme were not painful but “distressing”, “uncomfortable”, “irritating”, “discombobulating”. They claimed too they acted under pressure from CIA counterterrorism boss Jose Rodriquez and others in calls from Washington to keep on pushing for the information which would “keep Americans safe from fresh threats.”&nbsp; The case forced Rodrigues and the CIA lawyer Rizzo also to testify in the depositions.</p> <p>Jessen says on film he was still&nbsp; “very convinced” the programme would cause “no lasting harm” to the subjects. In another video Rodrigues too says the same. Astounding judgments considering one of the men in the case had actually died. Nobody who has read the detail of the Senate summary report, or <em>Guantanamo Diary</em> by the wholly innocent former prisoner Mohamedou Slahi who was tortured to breaking point, could have anything but utter contempt for such assertions. <span class="mag-quote-center">“This twisted logic ­– saying that because i was kidnapped, tortured and held captive for so many years this is the reason to violate my civil rights some more – is just beyond the pale.” </span></p><p class="Body">Video depositions were also made by the two surviving former prisoners in the case, Suleiman Salim from Tanzania and Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, a Libyan. Here are stark pictures of quiet men whose lives have been destroyed. Neither can bear describing the pain they suffered - Mr Salim breaks down at the question. Their faces, body language and lives today show just how deep is the lasting harm. Mr Ben Soud speaks of nightmares that he is still in the prison shackled, and of deep anxiety, while Mr Salim reveals how post-prison he is isolated, cannot manage to be with people, keeps to himself and feels “so weak I can’t do anything.” </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Mohammedou_Ould_Salahi.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Mohammedou_Ould_Salahi.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="625" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mohamedou Ould Slahi. Photograph taken by ICRC at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. Wikicommons/ International Cttee. of the Red Cross. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Slahi’s book, written while still in Guantanamo, was a best seller, translated into many languages. His determined lack of bitterness, sense of humour and insight into the politics behind what had happened to him as the Americans shifted him from country to country for torture in a fruitless attempt to link him to the war on terror, has won him a world audience. But today he is stuck at home in Mauritania, denied a passport. A recent email gives a vivid picture of how this clever, curious man, an inveterate traveller and student, has had his life closed down. This is what he wrote to me recently: “To be honest with you i'm really sick and tired of having been punished for so many years because i was born in Africa. And tired of being afraid all the time. This twisted logic ­– saying that because i was kidnapped, tortured and held captive for so many years this is the reason to violate my civil rights some more - is just beyond the pale. At this very moment, my doctor told me that I have to seek medical treatment outside the country. But I have no passport to do so. This is not a game. I was operated on in Gitmo and i'm still suffering excruciating pain which my Mauritanian doctors couldn't figure out.” </p><p class="Default">Many other former Guantanamo prisoners are still denied passports, like Slahi, and thus deprived of family contact, in some cases job opportunities or, like Slahi health treatment.</p> <p class="Body">In these 15 years I have spent a good deal of time with the families of Guantanamo prisoners, and one thing I have heard many times from wives and children - and some of the men – is that noone released from Guantanamo is the same person who was taken there. Nor does the impact ever end – not just psychologically, as anyone can see in the faces of Salim and Ben Soud, but in how the world treats them – as Mohamedou Slahi’s note illustrates. </p> <p class="Body">Jesson and Mitchell were sued by Salim and Ben Soud who survived the psychologists’ “enhanced interrogation techniques” and by the family of the third man, Gul Rahman, who died in Afghanistan in CIA custody in November 2002. </p> <p class="Body">Rahman was interrogated by Jessen personally for 48 hours. Mitchell too participated in one session and also administered a mental health status exam and provided an assessment of interrogation measures. Later one lead CIA staff officer at the secret site codenamed Cobalt told investigators that “Rahman was the responsibility of Jessen.” The psychologist watched the prisoner subjected to a “hard takedown,” where he was “dragged from his cell.” He had his clothes cut off, his hands taped, and a hood was put on his head. He was run up and down a hallway and “sometimes stumbled and was dragged.” He was also “slapped and punched” in the stomach. When the two psychologists left Cobalt, Rahman was on an interrogation plan prepared by Jessen which included subjecting him to freezing temperatures. Six days later Rahman froze to death, shackled and naked from the waist down. The temperature in his cell was 2.2 degrees centigrade, or 36 degrees fahrenheit. His family were not told he had died.</p> <h2 class="Body"><strong>Not responsible</strong></h2> <p class="Body">The former prisoners’ suit was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union. The official ACLU statement on the settlement gives a flavour of the hard fight for accountability. It says, “ Drs Mitchell and Jessen assert that the abuses of Mr Salim and Mr Ben Soud occurred without their knowledge or consent and that they were not responsible for those actions. Drs Mitchell and and Jessen also assert that they were not responsible that they were unaware of the specific abuses that ultimately caused Mr Rahman’s death and are also not responsible for those actions.”</p> <p class="Body">The ACLU is one of the many US lawyers groups who have spent the last 15 years in dogged attempts – mostly unsuccessful – to uphold US laws and International Human Rights Law against successive US administrations. British and other European lawyers have also fought against our governments’ role in complicity in torture, kidnapping and denial of human rights law.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/dem15-mj-suleiman-mohammed-soud-bio-1160x864.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/dem15-mj-suleiman-mohammed-soud-bio-1160x864.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="395" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mohammed Ahmed Ben Soud. ACLU. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>As a result of these lawyers’ work Poland, Canada and the UK have, under pressure, paid damages to a fraction of the ‘war on terror’ prisoners. But none of the other countries which hosted CIA sites, like Afghanistan, Lithuania and Thailand, or which took over US prisoners for torture – Egypt, Morocco and Jordan – have acknowledged, paid compensation or apologised for what these prisoners of the US suffered at their hands. </p><p class="Body">And as for the US, Washington has regularly refused even visitor visas to men, like Murat Kurnaz, the Turkish citizen living in Germany, who was held for five years in Guantanamo, and who they had to admit to having wrongly imprisoned; or Mahar Arar, the Canadian/Syrian telecommunications engineer who the Americans arrested as he changed planes in New York after a holiday and sent to Syria where he spent a year of torture, much of it in a coffin-sized box. Mr Arar was one of the many victims of the Orwellian-sounding practice of “extraordinary rendition”, which was actually state kidnapping.</p><p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/View_of_judges_panel_during_testimony_Nuremberg_Trials_1945.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/View_of_judges_panel_during_testimony_Nuremberg_Trials_1945.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="372" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>View of judges panel during testimony at the Nuremberg Trials, 1945.Wikicommons/ United States Army Signal Corps photographer. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <h2 class="Body"><strong>Nuremberg</strong></h2> <p class="Body">We need a truthful narrative of a dark dark period when America leaders opened a Pandora’s Box called counterterrorism.&nbsp; Many thousands of people were and are complicit in the massive web of deception, illegality, cruelty and Islamophobia touched on here. </p> <p class="Body">The CIA lawyer mentioned above, John Rizzo, is one of 12 Bush administration lawyers and other officials including former president Bush and vice president Cheney named in 2015 by HRW as among those who should be investigated for “conspiracy to torture and other crimes.” Mitchell and Jessen are named as part of the conspiracy.* <a href="#_ftn2">[2]</a></p> <p class="Body">The powerful lawyers and politicians who should be accountable to the world for normalising torture and deliberately dismantling human rights safeguards for us all have been embraced by the power of the establishment into top jobs in legal firms or academia or government and probably feel themselves protected in their impunity. The precedent of the Mitchell/Jessen case should prove them wrong.</p> <p class="Body">What is at stake now is preserving for our common civilisation the international architecture of human rights law – Nuremberg and the UN Declaration of Human Rights, set up in the idealistic chastened aftermath of World War 2 as the basis of a wholly different<strong> </strong>world from the barbarism of that war. The growing barbarism of today is more threatening because no powerful government admits their culpability in it.</p> <hr size="1" /> <p class="Footnote"><a href="#_ftnref1">[1]</a> East-West Street, On the origins of genocide and crimes against humanity, pub Weidenfeld and Nicholson</p> <p class="Footnote"><a href="#_ftnref2">[2]</a> <a href="https://www.hrw.org/report/2015/12/01/no-more-excuses/roadmap-justice-cia-torture#page">https://www.hrw.org/report/2015/12/01/no-more-excuses/roadmap-justice-cia-torture#page</a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/victoria-brittain/murder-in-guantanamo">Murder in Guantanamo </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/victoria-brittain/dangerous-game-reply-to-gita-sahgal-and-her-supporters">Dangerous game: a reply to Gita Sahgal and her supporters</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openjustice/frances-webber/uk-government-will-be-held-accountable-for-complicity-in-torture-and-rend">UK government will be held accountable for complicity in torture and rendition </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? North-Africa West-Asia uk openJustice Victoria Brittain Tue, 05 Sep 2017 08:15:42 +0000 Victoria Brittain 113175 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Prosecutors: human rights defenders or violators? https://www.opendemocracy.net/harry-hummel/prosecutors-human-rights-defenders-of-violators <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A call for the International Association of Prosecutors Annual Conference in Beijing to make explicit efforts to promote adherence to their own standards.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/lex.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/lex.jpg" alt="lead lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Lex cartoon is created by Oleh Smal for the Netherlands Helsinki Committee. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>Public prosecutors in many countries are deeply involved in human rights abuse, in violation of their professional standards. Patterns of abusive practices by prosecutors are a stain on the profession. The global body of prosecutors, the International Association of Prosecutors, will be holding their Annual Conference in Beijing from 10 to 15 September. Their hosts are the Chinese prosecution service, who have taken on human rights lawyers particularly harshly and arbitrarily over recent years. </em></p> <p>When Margaret Sekaggya ended her term as UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders at the end of 2013, <a href="https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G13/190/95/PDF/G1319095.pdf?OpenElement">she noted</a> she had “seen the space for civil society and defenders visibly shrink in certain regions of the world”, accompanied by “the consolidation of more sophisticated forms of silencing of their voices and impeding their work, including the application of legal and administrative provisions or the misuse of the judicial system to criminalise and stigmatise their activities.”</p> <p>The trend towards the limiting of space for civil society and the defense of human rights has since then only become more intense. Think of developments in Russia and neighbouring countries such as Azerbaijan, think of Turkey, think of Egypt and the Gulf countries, think of China. </p> <p>Prosecutors play a pivotal role in this negative trend. In Russia, right before hosting the prosecutors’ global Annual Conference in 2013, the Office of the Prosecutor General launched <a href="http://www.defendersorviolators.info/abuse-of-powers-by-prosecutors">a massive nationwide campaign</a> of extraordinary (and unannounced) inspections of NGOs that aimed at “forcing them to enter the register of foreign agents”. Hundreds of NGOs throughout the country were subjected to these inspections, which were highly invasive and seemed to have the purpose of intimidating these organizations. The campaign was unprecedented in its scale and scope – there has never been such a wide-scale inspection of any legal entities (including not only NGOs, but also commercial companies and state institutions) in the history of modern Russia. This campaign was based on the wide-ranging powers of the Prosecutor’s Office to supervise the observance and application of laws.</p> <p>In July 2015, <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/07/07/china-709-anniversary-legal-crackdown-continues">Chinese police rounded up</a> and interrogated about 300 rights lawyers, legal assistants and activists across the country, a campaign widely seen as a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/23/china-must-respect-lawyers-human-rights">rupture in China’s rule of law development</a>. &nbsp;This repression of rule of law advocates is known as the “709 crackdown” for the July 9 date of the 2015 roundup. While most have been released, at least three are held while pending trial and another two are serving prison sentences; yet other were served suspended sentences. The UN Committee against Torture in <a href="http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CAT%2fC%2fCHN%2fCO%2f5&amp;Lang=en">December 2016 noted</a> “consistent reports that human rights defenders and lawyers, petitioners, political dissidents and members of religious or ethnic minorities continue to be charged, or threatened to be charged, with broadly defined offences as a form of intimidation. Such offences reportedly include ‘picking quarrels and provoking trouble’, ‘gathering a crowd to disturb social order’ or more severe crimes against national security.” Severe <a href="http://www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/2101819/chinas-human-rights-lawyers-continue-fight-victims-709">torture</a> has been reported, with no effective steps taken by prosecutors to investigate the allegations and eliminate use of information extracted under torture.</p> <p>Azerbaijan, whose authorities <a href="https://www.azernews.az/nation/65939.html">closely cooperate with the IAP</a>, is in the midst of a <a href="https://www.hrw.org/evropa-i-srednyaya-aziya/azerbaijan">major crackdown</a> on civil rights defenders, bloggers and journalists, imposing hefty sentences on fabricated and trumped-up charges in trials that make a mockery of justice. Torture is an issue here as well; earlier this year a <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/05/02/free-azerbaijani-journalist-mehman-huseynov">well-known blogger was sentenced to two years imprisonment</a> for complaining about torture, without his complaint being taken up in a meaningful way. </p> <p>The IAP <a href="http://www.iap-association.org/About/Vision-Objects">sees itself</a> as an “international Community of Prosecutors committed to setting and raising standards of professional conduct and ethics for Prosecutors worldwide; promoting the rule of law, fairness, impartiality and respect for human rights and improving international co-operation to combat crime.” International cooperation clearly is served by the IAP but professional and ethical conduct seems to need massively more attention. Despite a <a href="http://www.iap-association.org/Resources-Documentation/IAP-Constitution">Constitution</a> and a <a href="http://www.iap-association.org/Resources-Documentation/IAP-Standards">Professional Standards</a> document that explicitly refer to human rights, no procedure is in place to monitor compliance of members and follow up on problems identified. </p> <p>Over the last years, the IAP has been approached several times by NGOs with complaints about persons in leadership or senior positions; in 2013 about Ali bin Fadhel Al Buainain, the Attourney General of Bahrain and member of the IAP’s Executive Committee, and in 2015 about Yuri Chaika, the Russian Prosecutor General and member of the Senate (the body of past members of the Executive Committee). The <a href="http://humanrights.ie/uncategorized/guest-post-ceartas-complaint-to-international-association-of-prosecutors-regarding-bahraini-attorney-general/">2013 complaint</a>, submitted by Ceartas, Irish Lawyers for Human Rights,&nbsp; raised the reported involvement of Al-Buainain in unfair trials of protesters and in failing to follow up on indications of torture. The <a href="https://themoscowtimes.com/articles/international-prosecutors-rejects-navalny-complaint-on-russias-chaika-52310">complaint about Chaika</a> came from Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation and submitted information about corruption schemes in which his sons are involved that are not tackled by the prosecution service. Both complaints were turned down without providing a substantive explanation to the complainants.</p> <p>A proper individual complaints mechanism should not be the only, and may be not the most important, procedure the IAP should put in place. A <a href="http://www.defendersorviolators.info/petition">2016 petition</a> signed by over 50 human rights NGOs working globally or in the Europe/ Eurasia region had a more generic request, that the IAP &nbsp;“urgently develop procedures to address the gap between professional ethics and practice”. The IAP has individual as well as organizational and institutional membership and compliance with the IAP’s own professional standards is <a href="http://www.defendersorviolators.info/petition-iap-2017">called for</a> again by over 120 international and national human rights and anti-corruption groups from across the world. </p> <p>The IAP does <a href="http://www.iap-association.org/News-from-the-President">take visible steps</a> with regard to the situation of members of the profession in particular countries – not surprisingly, these are situations in which their colleagues are under threat, from an overbearing or one-sided executive, from organized crime or from violent political groups. Clearly, these are issues of crucial importance to the profession. In particular prosecutors who dedicate themselves to fighting rights abuses and who stand for the integrity of the profession may fall victim to these threats. Yet, it is all too common that prosecutors are an instrument of oppression and become complicit in human rights abuse. The IAP has spoken out about the <a href="http://www.iap-association.org/News/The-International-Association-of-Prosecutors-follo">recent persecution without proper procedure</a> of prosecutors in Turkey, but other prosecutors are implementing this policy, and at the same time are engaged in <a href="https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/turkey-detention-ten-human-rights-defenders">arbitrary steps against human rights defenders</a>, journalists and lawyers. </p> <p>Prosecutors should be human rights defenders and in many instances they are.&nbsp; But systematically neglecting human rights abuse in the name of international cooperation and trustful collegial relationships will only undermine rather than strengthen the credibility of the profession. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>See the <a href="http://www.defendersorviolators.info/petition-iap-2017">Petition to the International Association of Prosecutors</a>, The Hague, September, 2017.</p><p class="font_0">&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> openJustice Harry Hummel Tue, 05 Sep 2017 08:00:49 +0000 Harry Hummel 113172 at https://www.opendemocracy.net “Blood on our hands” - the sorry state of UK mental health services https://www.opendemocracy.net/blood-on-their-hands-sorry-state-of-uk-mental-health-services <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Nobody doubts there is a problem – so why isn’t more being done to protect survivors of abuse?</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/boy-2205733_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/boy-2205733_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="230" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>"I frequently speak to clients who feel that they have nowhere to turn and nobody to talk to". Image: Juraj Varga/Pixabay. CC0 Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><span>It took Sir James Munby, President of the High Court’s Family Division, to issue a damning warning before an NHS bed was recently found for a suicidal teenager who was at significant risk of self-harm. This case (judgment can be seen in full <a href="https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/x-a-child-no-3-2017-ewhc-2036-fam-20170803.pdf" target="_blank">here</a>) has once again highlighted the sad state of affairs for mental health provision in the UK but, unfortunately, and tragically, it is difficult to be optimistic for change any time soon.</span></p> <p>During the recent election campaigns rival politicians decried that mental ill-health and/or associated support services was a “<em>burning injustice</em>” (Conservatives), “<em>the biggest unaddressed health challenge of our age</em>” (Labour) and “<em>stretched to breaking point</em>” (Liberal Democrats). With such cross-party consensus it seems ludicrous that we still find ourselves in an intolerable situation whereby some of the most vulnerable members of our society are left without the support which they require.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The provision of mental health services is a postcode lottery.</p> <p><span>As somebody who represents survivors of abuse, many of whom have found themselves in situations of acute mental health crisis at one point or another in their lives, I frequently speak to clients who feel that they have nowhere to turn and nobody to talk to. The provision of mental health services is a postcode lottery, with some people being placed on excruciatingly long waiting lists for NHS therapeutic services which are ultimately limited in scope and time.</span></p> <p><span>Currently I am representing survivors that range in age from those barely older than toddlers to people almost into their 70’s; and yet almost all face a distinct lack of tailored support for their individual needs. &nbsp;</span></p> <p><span>The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) recently released a </span><a href="https://www.iicsa.org.uk/key-documents/1534/view/IICSA%20Impacts%20of%20Child%20Sexual%20Abuse%20Rapid%20Evidence%20Assessment%20Full%20Report%20%28English%29.pdf" target="_blank">Rapid Evidence Assessment</a><span> of the impacts of child sexual abuse on survivors and those that are closest to them. It pulls together various studies and makes for stark reading. Notably 57% of young people subjected to abuse suffered with depression and survivors of child sexual abuse are six times more likely to make an attempt of suicide.</span></p> <p><span>The need for adequate mental health provision for those affected by abuse is clear, but this is not a new concern.</span></p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">84% of NHS staff felt that it had become more difficult for children to access support.</span></p> <p><span>The IICSA report notes that there has previously only been one study into the costs of child sexual abuse specifically, and that this was published by the NSPCC in 2014. Whilst the personal costs of abuse are clearly immeasurable, and the economic costs will never be accurately known for various reasons, the NSPCC report suggests that child abuse costs the economy approximately £3 billion a year. Of that £182 million is attributable to health provision, including child and adult mental health services, child suicide and self-harm and adult physical health concerns including alcohol and drug misuse.</span></p> <p><span>The cost and scale of the issue therefore cannot be understated. However in May this year, following a survey of 3,000 NHS staff undertaken by the Association of Child Psychotherapists, it was reported that 84% of those questioned felt that it had become more difficult for children to access support and 33% said that their workplace was either downsizing or being closed. It led to senior figures suggesting that children’s mental health services within the NHS were in crisis.</span></p> <p>Time and time again survivors of abuse tell us that the system is broken. When they reach the end of the lengthy waiting list and finally receive therapy most can expect a standard course of treatment, no more or no less than the person in front of them in the queue. For some this ‘one size fits all’ approach has had a detrimental impact upon them; effectively opening a can of worms and shortly thereafter leaving them without adequate support to go about their daily life. It is a desperate situation and, in my experience, one of the key motivators in survivors of abuse seeking legal advice for a claim for compensation.</p> <p><span>But this should not be read as a criticism of NHS staff, some of whom have empathetically explained why support services for survivors of abuse within the NHS are inadequate. Charities are often being left to pick up the slack, but with increasing demand and diminishing funds they cannot be expected to bridge such a huge gap.</span></p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">The&nbsp;‘one size fits all’ approach... is, in my experience, one of the key motivators in survivors of abuse seeking legal advice for a claim for compensation.</span></p> <p><span>In July 2016 the Government recognised the issue and announced a £550,000 grant funding for charities assisting survivors of sexual abuse; but with the NSPCC report highlighting how health services for survivors of abuse costs almost £500,000 a day, it isn’t difficult to see that this grant would diminish quickly in the overstretched and under-resourced third sector.</span></p> <p><span>The child at the centre of Sir Munby’s judgment required treatment specific to her needs, and without this support her life could potentially have been cut short. He was right to say that society would have “</span><em>blood on their hands</em><span>” if they failed a child who was known to pose a risk to herself.</span></p> <p>Without further funding it is inevitable that for some of those who do not have such a respected advocate to speak out on their behalf their mental health support will be inadequate for their needs and they will slip through the net. Even when suicidal ideations or thoughts of self-harm are not a concern the unmet support needs are likely to continue to have a detrimental impact, with many survivors of abuse describing how they are left to live a life they are not happy with, and how untreated issues can also impact upon their families and communities.</p> <p>It is therefore more important than ever to continue the conversation surrounding mental ill-health, and to continue to push for reform and further funding for mental health services so that no more people are failed.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openjustice/suzanne-white/fast-tracking-medical-justice-is-problematic-let-s-prevent-tragedies-in-first-place">Fast-tracking medical justice is problematic. Let’s prevent tragedies in the first place.</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> openJustice uk openJustice Make your voice heard (openJustice) Andrew Lord Thu, 17 Aug 2017 12:23:11 +0000 Andrew Lord 112906 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The rule of law fights back https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/openjustice/geoffrey-bindman/rule-of-law-fights-back <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The recent Supreme Court decision on employment tribunal fees is a victory for our constitution. This is the rule of law, in action.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/PA-32190878.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/PA-32190878.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="291" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Grayling's imposition of high, blanket fees for bringing a claim in the Employment Tribunal caused a reduction of approximately 70% of claims. Press Association/Nick Ansell. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>If, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, government is of the people, by the people and for the people, the independent role of the courts and the judiciary is crucial. The executive functions of government, exercised by the cabinet moderated only partially by elected members of Parliament, must be carried out lawfully, and it is the job of the judges to make sure they are.</p> <p>The Supreme Court has now <a href="https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/docs/uksc-2015-0233-judgment.pdf" target="_blank">ruled</a> in favour of a challenge by the trade union Unison to the imposition of fees (by the Employment Tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal Fees Order 2013) on those seeking justice in the employment tribunals. Their decision to declare charging fees for access to the tribunals illegal is of fundamental constitutional importance. Judges are no longer merely the interpreters of the law. Nor is their responsibility limited to seeing that it is enforced. The law, as the Supreme Court has now determined it to be, requires the judges to ensure that access to justice is available to all.</p> <p>The employment tribunals – at first called industrial tribunals – were established in 1964. Following the Donovan Report of 1968 their jurisdiction was extended to remedy the violation of nearly every kind of employment right, regardless of any financial value. Recognising the vulnerability and unequal economic power of workers the tribunals were designed to be informal and inexpensive. No fees were charged to claimants.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">We cannot know how many valid claims were not brought because of the cost of doing so but there must have been many, each one a denial of justice.</p> <p>Although the ideal of informality was never fully achieved – the employers used lawyers and the claimants could be at a disadvantage if they did not – the tribunals were popular and effective. The very existence of a potential remedy for bad behaviour by employers was a useful deterrent.</p> <p>The Fees Order was made under statutory powers by Christopher Grayling – possibly the least respected Lord Chancellor in the long history of that office. He argued that charging fees would discourage bogus and vexatious claims. There was no evidence that this was a problem but employers, who stood to benefit from the suppression of all claims, valid or not, naturally supported him. He also argued, perhaps more plausibly, that the users of the service should pay for it, rather than the taxpayer.</p> <p>The fees were high. For straightforward cases the figure was £390 – £160 on making the complaint and another £230 if there was a hearing. For more complex cases it was £1200 – an issue fee of £250 and a hearing fee of £950. Remission of fees could be granted, but only in strictly limited circumstances. Given the uncertainties of all litigation and the size of these figures, It must have been blindingly obvious, even to Mr. Grayling, that these fees would discourage many claimants, whatever the merits of their claims. So it proved. There was, to quote Lord Reed in the Supreme Court:</p><p class="blockquote-new">“<em>a dramatic and persistent fall in the number of claims brought in ETs. Comparing the figures preceding the introduction of fees with more recent periods, there has been a long-term reduction in claims accepted by ETs of the order of 66-70%.</em>”</p><p>We cannot know how many valid claims were not brought because of the cost of doing so but there must have been many, each one a denial of justice.</p> <p>Yet the question remains: was the Order imposing fees lawful? The governing statutory provision, section 42(1) of the Tribunals Courts and Enforcement Act 2007, empowers the Lord Chancellor to prescribe fees for any specified tribunal. That is what he did. But can that apparently clear cut statutory authority be overridden by a more fundamental principle? Is access to justice the trump card?</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The courts are not merely a public service but an essential feature of a society governed by the rule of law.&nbsp;</p> <p>Unison began its legal campaign in 2013 challenging the Fees Order as a breach of EU law requiring effective access to a tribunal and of the Public Sector Equality Duty imposed by the Equality Act 2010. These challenges failed in the Divisional Court and again in the Court of Appeal, which was (surprisingly) not satisfied that the fees charged were unaffordable. The appeal to the Supreme Court was argued on the basis that the making of the Fees Order was not a lawful exercise of the statutory powers because the prescribed fees interfere unjustifiably with the right of access to justice under both the common law and EU law, frustrate the operation of Parliamentary legislation granting employment rights, and discriminate unlawfully against women and other protected groups. The right of access to justice, Unison claimed, is not just a matter of EU law but is a fundamental principle of the common law and – as Lord Reed says in the Supreme Court judgment “<em>has long been deeply embedded in our constitutional law</em>”.</p><p>Lord Reed’s masterly analysis (<a href="https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/docs/uksc-2015-0233-judgment.pdf" target="_blank">you can read it in full here</a>)&nbsp;was endorsed by all the other judges. He pointed out that the courts are not merely a public service but an essential feature of a society governed by the rule of law. They cannot do their job of ensuring that the laws made by Parliament and the common law are applied and enforced unless people have unimpeded access to them:</p><p class="blockquote-new">“<em>Without such access, laws are liable to become a dead letter, the work done by Parliament may be rendered nugatory, and the democratic election of Members of Parliament may become a meaningless charade</em>.”</p> <p>Thus the law is not there just to provide a service to those who have a dispute:</p><p class="blockquote-new">“<em>People and businesses need to know that they will be able to enforce their rights if they have to do so and, on the other hand, that if they fail to meet their obligations there is likely to be a remedy against them.</em>”</p> <p>Lord Reed reviewed relevant legal history, including chapter 40 of Magna Carta: “<em>We will sell to no man, we will not deny or defer to any man either Justice or Right</em>”. Subsequent case law is consistent with the principle that “<em>a citizen’s right to unimpeded access to the courts can only be taken away by express enactment</em>.” In the case of the Fees Order the governing statutory provision did not authorise the prevention of access to the relevant tribunals. Yet he concluded that access was prevented and this was enough to make the Fees Order unlawful.</p> <p>Where do we go from here? The government immediately accepted the decision and fees have already been cancelled for employment tribunals. The government has promised to repay all fees paid since the Fees Order came into force. But what about access to the courts and to justice more generally?</p> <p>Fees are by no means the only barrier to access. Legal aid has been drastically restricted. Legal and advice centres have closed or reduced services through lack of funding. Many solicitors have given up legal aid. Court staff has been reduced and courts closed. All these cuts deny access to justice for many people who cannot afford to pay for legal advice and representation. Will the courts use their newly minted power to give them access? Some of us will be eager to put them to the test. The judgement in this case could mark the turning of the tide in favour of those who seek justice.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openjustice/charlotte-threipland/does-britain-still-uphold-rule-of-law">Does Britain still uphold the rule of law?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openjustice/laura-janes/draconian-cuts-to-legal-aid-for-prisoners-found-to-be-unlawful-by-court-of-a">Draconian cuts to legal aid for prisoners found to be unlawful by Court of Appeal </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openjustice/john-nicholson/hope-for-access-to-justice">Hope for access to justice?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> openJustice uk openJustice Justice for the rich alone? (openJustice) Geoffrey Bindman Fri, 04 Aug 2017 14:33:37 +0000 Geoffrey Bindman 112706 at https://www.opendemocracy.net London is cloaking environmental racism in respectability – but Zambian villagers are fighting back https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/amy-hall/london-is-cloaking-environmental-racism-in-respectability-but-zambian-villagers-are-figh <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Zambian villagers await a landmark judgement that could help hold British companies to account for their actions abroad.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/vedanta_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/vedanta_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="385" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Foil Vedanta</em></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Over 1,800 people from farming and fishing communities near Chingola, Zambia are waiting to hear if they can make a claim for damages in the English courts against UK mining company Vedanta Resources and its subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines (KCM).</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>A decision from London’s Court of Appeal is expected by the end of the summer. If the villagers are successful, it could become easier in future for multinational companies based in the UK to be held to account for alleged human rights and environmental abuses in other countries.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Hundreds of people living near Chingola were hospitalised due to water contamination from sulphuric acid and other chemicals from a KCM-owned mine in 2006.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/Screen-shot-2016-02-17-at-12.26.58-300x226_1.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/Screen-shot-2016-02-17-at-12.26.58-300x226_1.png" alt="" title="" width="300" height="226" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>“</span><span>We have no water source apart from the river and it’s totally polluted,” villager Leo Chikopela</span><span><a href="https://web.archive.org/web/20170204213118/http:/www.foilvedanta.org/articles/how-kcm-is-killing-the-zambian-copperbelt-part-1-water-pollution/%20"><span> </span><span>told campaign group Foil Vedanta</span></a></span><span>. “Most of us are very weak and have constant stomach pains. When we bathe using this water our skin itches.”</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Local people have also</span><span><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3isPdcR6Qe4&amp;feature=youtu.be"><span> </span><span>reported</span></a></span><span> deaths after their relatives drank from a local river.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>The villagers were previously awarded compensation in the Zambian High Court, but KCM appealed. In 2015 the Supreme Court upheld the guilty verdict but removed the compensation. Vedanta argues that it does not have a duty of care to claimants potentially polluted by the activity of its subsidiary, KCM. Lawyers for the villagers</span><span><a href="https://www.leighday.co.uk/News/News-2017/June-2017/Court-of-Appeal-hearing-next-week-in-legal-claims"><span> </span><span>argue</span></a></span><span> that taking the case to the UK is the only way the villagers will get justice.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Vedanta's track record on the environment and human rights is questionable. It was</span><span><a href="https://thewire.in/117267/norway-wealth-fund-blacklists-vedanta-indian-firms/"><span> </span><span>excluded</span></a></span><span><span> </span></span><span>from Norwegian Pension Fund investments due to an “</span><span><a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/342449425/Letter-to-Vedanta-27-May-2016"><span>unacceptable risk</span></a></span><span>” that the company will “cause or contribute to severe environmental damage and serious or systematic human rights violations.”</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/Screen-shot-2016-02-19-at-13.20.38_1.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/Screen-shot-2016-02-19-at-13.20.38_1.png" alt="" title="" width="272" height="254" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Mining companies control key mineral resources across the world, and have impacted on land based communities and indigenous peoples through associated forced evictions, pollution, and violence in or near mine areas. Often local people see little of the profits, despite the exploitation of their mineral rich land and the environmental and health consequences.</span><span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>“</span><span>The environmental racism of copper mining companies, and the impunity they enjoyed during Rhodes' British South African Company era is continuing to haunt Zambia through the colonial legacy issues of KCM/Vedanta,”</span><span><a href="http://www.adivasiresurgence.com/british-mining-firm-vedanta-deny-culpability-gross-pollution-zambia/"><span> </span><span>said</span></a></span><span> Samarendra Das from Foil Vedanta.</span><span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>London is a key investment hub for extractive/mining industries. Major lobbyists the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) are based there, as is metals price fixing mechanism the London Metal Exchange, and precious metals trader, the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA). Many multinational mining companies also maintain links with London through trading on the London Stock Exchange which offers them a ‘</span><span><a href="http://www.foilvedanta.org/actions/global-day-of-action-against-vedantas-agm/"><span>cloak of respectability</span></a></span><span>’.</span><span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>“Being listed on the London Stock Exchange offers companies an explicit air of credibility, because the LSX presents itself as providing strict oversight around who gets a listing and who doesn't,” explains Liam Barrington-Bush, former Communications Worker at the </span><span><a href="http://londonminingnetwork.org/"><span>London Mining Network</span></a></span><span>. “In practice there is not a lot of scrutiny that these companies have to undergo, in terms of anything ethical, environmental or social, to get themselves listed.”</span><span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>While London-based and -listed companies are benefiting from the natural resources of far flung countries – at the expensive of local people – they are not always paying what they should for the privilege.</span><span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>A 2016 War on Want report titled</span><span><a href="http://media.waronwant.org/sites/default/files/TheNewColonialism.pdf?_ga=1.236301313.1006353339.1463138993%20"><span> </span><span>The New Colonialism</span></a></span><span><span> (pdf)</span></span><span>, showed that 101 London Stock Exchange listed companies had mining operations in 37 sub-Saharan African countries, collectively controlling over $1 trillion worth of Africa’s oil, gold, diamonds, coal and platinum. Of the 101 companies, 25 of them were incorporated in tax havens.</span><span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>While companies are making money from Africa's resources,</span><span><a href="https://www.healthpovertyaction.org/speaking-out/honest-accounts/"><span> </span><span>the continent is losing it.</span></a></span><span> In 2015 Africa received nearly $162 billion in aid, loans, foreign investment and remittances, but lost $203 billion thanks to multinational corporations, debt payments, tax dodging and the costs imposed by climate change. In other words, the rest of the world received over $41 billion a year from African countries – money that could have been spent on basic needs such as healthcare and education.</span><span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Vedanta has been</span><span><a href="https://www.actionaid.org.uk/blog/campaigns/2014/07/11/new-evidence-piles-pressure-on-vedanta-over-tax-dodging-in-zambia%20"><span> </span><span>accused</span></a></span><span> of tax dodging in the past through under-pricing copper sold through KCM in order to pay less tax in Zambia.</span><span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>As the Vedanta AGM takes place in London on Monday 14 August, a </span><span><span>Global Day of Action</span></span><span> against will take place – with events in Zambia, India and the UK – putting further pressure on Vedanta over the Zambia case and other communities affected by pollution, human rights abuses and tax evasion around the world.</span><span></span></p><p><span>The next part of this article looks further at the links between the British state and multinational mining companies, including how colonialism is furthered under the guise of development.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span></span></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk openJustice Brexit Inc. Amy Hall Thu, 03 Aug 2017 13:07:34 +0000 Amy Hall 112680 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Shocking new evidence could overturn Northern Ireland ruling that became an international blueprint for torture https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/tom-griffin/shocking-new-evidence-could-overturn-northern-ireland-ruling-that-became-internationa <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>I “felt like I was drowning or suffocating until I fell on the floor unconscious” - new testimony from survivors of torture in Nothern Ireland goes to the heart of British colonial myth-making.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p> </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/Barbed Wire fence.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/Barbed Wire fence.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>British forces in Northern Ireland used waterboarding and electric shock treatment on detainees during the 1970s, newly uncovered files show. Witness statements and internal Whitehall correspondence released for the first time last month could have significant implications for international human rights law and British-Irish relations.</p> <p>One victim of waterboarding in Belfast spoke out publicly about his experience for the first time at following the recovery of his original testimony from 1972, which recounts that he ‘felt like I was drowning or suffocating until I fell on the floor unconscious’</p> <p>The documents were revealed at an event in London to mark the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on 26 June, hosted by Matrix Chambers, along with the Pat Finucane Centre, the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) and Amnesty International.</p> <p>They add to growing evidence that interrogation practices in Northern Ireland went beyond those criticised by the European Court of Human Rights in the 1978 case of <em>Ireland v. the United Kingdom</em>. The so-called ‘five techniques’ examined in that judgement included deprivation of sleep, deprivation of food and drink, stress positions, hooding and subjection to ‘white noise’.</p> <p>Although the European Court condemned these practices as ‘inhuman and degrading’ it refused to describe them as torture. This paradoxically opened the way for the ruling to be used as a blueprint by interrogators, notably in the ‘torture memos’ drafted by the Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the US John Yoo to justify practices used during the earliest phase of the ‘War on Terror’.</p> <p>Previous revelations regarding the suppression of medical evidence in 2014 prompted the Irish Government to re-open the original case. The discovery that interrogation practices went beyond the five techniques, and included waterboarding and electric shock treatment, is likely to increase pressure on the European Court to alter its original verdict. In February this year, Channel 4 news covered allegations that British paratroopers had used waterboarding against two Irish men, <a href="http://www.itv.com/news/utv/2017-02-02/amnesty-calls-for-probe-into-ni-torture-allegations/">with the knowledge of then Prime Minister Edward Heath</a>. The latest revelations show the practice was not a one-off.</p> <p>The re-opened legal case – which still awaits a ruling from Strasbourg – has been the subject of significant tension in British-Irish relations, now under further pressure given negotiations over Brexit and reforming the Northern Ireland Executive. A stronger line from the European Court would also be embarrassing for a British Government who have just agreed a DUP demand that bodies examining the legacy of the conflict should not <a href="http://www.irishnews.com/news/2017/06/28/news/victims-group-hits-out-at-dup-tory-deal-on-legacy-amid-fears-of-side-deals-1068901/">'unfairly focus on former members of the armed forces or police.'</a></p> <p>At last month’s Matrix Chambers event, witness statements from the closed archive of the of the Association for Legal Justice at the Ó Fiaich Library in Armagh were revealed for the first time as well as newly uncovered material from the UK National Archives.</p> <p>An anonymous former detainee read an extract from his own newly recovered testimony given in 1972 when he was aged 17. He stated that in between beatings and other abusive techniques at Black Mountain Army Base “they wrapped a towel round my head and poured water all over it.” </p> <p>“As it filled with water, it felt like I was drowning or suffocating until I fell on the floor unconscious. Once I was conscious they would then beat me again with batons until I was on my feet and repeated the process again. I lost a stone in weight in seven hours and my clothes were ripped to shreds. Finally an army officer came in. I had met him before. He said he believed that I wasn’t involved, but he felt that I could give him information on the IRA, and he would give me one week to do so. He drove me back to the Springfield Road and threw me out.”</p> <p>A statement given by the same detainee’s mother to a Cork-based NGO in November 1972, described how, during his detention “he was brutally beaten and had a wet towel tied tightly round his head and face. </p> <p>“This was filled with water at intervals causing him great distress and suffocation. His body was doubled over causing him extreme pain. He was also forced to hold an armalite rifle and a .22 calibre pistol to have his fingerprints on them, and was told this was enough to get him 15 years.”</p> <p>“When my son arrived home I was so distressed by his appearance that I decided to send him away for his own safety. He was completely changed in his personality from a happy-go-lucky boy to a very frightened one.”</p> <p>Other accounts of a similar pattern of torture included a Downing Street memo from November 1972 recording the concerns of Taoiseach Jack Lynch, and a Ministry of Defence file recommending settlement of a case brought by a detainee subjected to electric shock treatment. Paul O’Connor of the Pat Finucane Centre said the file was clear evidence that the MOD was anxious to keep certain matters out of court, “particularly issues involving the use of water, and people’s heads being held under water, and electric shocks being administered.”</p> <p>O’Connor criticised the response of the Ministry of Defence and the Police Service of Northern Ireland to advance reports of the new evidence. “Both responses were that anybody that had allegations of serious criminal wrongdoing should approach the police, who are implicated in the wrongdoing. “</p> <p>Daniel Holder of the Committee on the Administration of Justice said that evidence interrogation methods that went beyond the five techniques was significant for the European Court case.</p> <p>He added that previous revelations had already shown that the original court decision was influenced by misleading information provided by the British Government: “It knew what the real long-term impact of these techniques were. It’s there in the archives. They had real medical reports as well as the misleading ones that were presented before the court.”</p> <p>Ann Hannah of Freedom from Torture argued that accountability for such practices was essential to the long-term rehabilitation of victims. “Time and time again we see the idea that you can rebuild after conflict and achieve some form of stability or you can have accountability. These things are so commonly played off against each other. In reality of course, stability is fragile without some form of accountability.</p> <p>“How can you expect survivors and their communities to trust state institutions like the police, the army, their politicians, if there’s been no attempt at accountability? Reconciliation is a buzzword in these situations but all too often survivors of torture and other abuses are just completely ignored in that process.” </p> <p>Guardian journalist Ian Cobain, author of <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/nicholas-mercer/cruel-britannia-secret-history-of-torture"><em>Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torture</em></a> warned of a significant backlash from the Ministry of Defence against such legal challenges.</p> <p>“We British are not any more prone than other former colonial powers to resort to torture at times of emergency. We probably compare quite favourably to some other states in that respect, but what we are particularly good at is concealment. We are really good at using official secrecy, denial and obfuscation to keep it all really well hidden.”</p> <p>“The reason a lot of British people tell themselves that [we behaved better than other colonial powers] is because denial and official secrecy has cleared the space within which this very powerful myth flourishes. I suspect one of the reasons why the Ministry of Defence is so keen to shutdown post-conflict litigation is because it is challenging to this ideal that we Brits have about ourselves.”</p> <p>A recent YouGov poll, showing that 59 per cent of are proud of the British Empire, perhaps underlines Cobain’s point. One consequence of that narrative may be an international legal order that allows other powers to emulate the empire’s torture practices.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/julian-petley/human-rights-scrapping-terrorism-democracy">Scrapping human rights is as great a threat to democracy as terrorism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/british-torture-in-iraq-and-state-s-corporate-memory-loss">British torture in Iraq and the state’s ‘corporate memory loss’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/aisha-maniar/on-britains-use-of-torture">On Britain&#039;s use of torture</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk openJustice Tom Griffin Tue, 25 Jul 2017 11:06:53 +0000 Tom Griffin 112496 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why the ICC examination into torture and other abuses by UK soldiers in Iraq must continue https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/carla-ferstman/why-icc-examination-into-torture-and-other-abuses-by-uk-soldiers-in-iraq-must-cont <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Default">The Office of the Prosecutor is under pressure to conclude the examination. It must remain open. The Prosecutor should be taking it to the next logical step – a full-blown investigation.&nbsp; </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/1024px-1_RRF_engage_Iraqi_Army_positions_with_their_81mm_Mortars._Iraq._26-03-2003_MOD_45142764.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/1024px-1_RRF_engage_Iraqi_Army_positions_with_their_81mm_Mortars._Iraq._26-03-2003_MOD_45142764.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Royal Regiment of Fusiliers preparing to engage enemy targets, south of Basra, March 2003. Wikicmmons/ Cpl Paul Jarvis/MOD. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The International Criminal Court has received numerous submissions of information about the UK military’s conduct in Iraq. An initial preliminary examination was opened and then later <a href="https://www.icc-cpi.int/NR/rdonlyres/04D143C8-19FB-466C-AB77-4CDB2FDEBEF7/143682/OTP_letter_to_senders_re_Iraq_9_February_2006.pdf">closed in 2006</a>. Although there was a reasonable basis to believe that crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court had been committed, namely wilful killing, torture and inhumane and degrading treatment of prisoners and civilians, the Prosecutor’s view was that the gravity threshold was not met. The number of victims of alleged abused at that time was very limited, totalling in all less than 20 persons, so the ‘quantitative criteria’ was not fulfilled. </p> <p>Subsequently, more information on alleged crimes was supplied, and in May 2014 the ICC Prosecutor <a href="https://www.icc-cpi.int/Pages/item.aspx?name=otp-statement-iraq-13-05-2014">announced&nbsp;the re-opening of the previously terminated preliminary examination</a>. This preliminary examination is ongoing. <a href="https://www.icc-cpi.int/iccdocs/otp/161114-otp-rep-PE_ENG.pdf">According to her latest report</a>, the ICC Prosecutor is currently finalizing the assessment of whether the alleged crimes committed by UK nationals fall within the subject-matter jurisdiction of the Court. In other words, do the crimes fall within the definition of war crimes or crimes against humanity, and do they meet the Prosecutor’s gravity threshold? </p> <p class="Default">The Office of the Prosecutor is now under pressure to conclude the examination. &nbsp;But this examination must remain open. Instead, the Prosecutor should be taking it to the next logical step – a full-blown investigation.&nbsp; </p> <p class="xmsonormal">Under the ICC Statute, the Court can only pursue an investigation and prosecution if it can be shown that the country with competence over the said crimes (in this case the UK) is unable or unwilling genuinely to pursue the matters which the ICC is specifically investigating, domestically. The UK has one of the strongest and most highly renowned legal systems in the world. Thus, it would be difficult to say that the competent UK authorities are unable to pursue an investigation or prosecution. Certainly they are able to do so. The issue is one of willingness and this is now seriously in question. <span class="mag-quote-center">It would be difficult to say that the competent UK authorities are unable to pursue an investigation or prosecution. Certainly they are able to do so. The issue is one of willingness and this is now seriously in question.</span></p> <p>There have been numerous investigations, including criminal investigations but there have been no prosecutions of UK armed forces personnel since the creation of the Iraq Historical Allegations Team (IHAT), which was established to review and investigate the growing number of allegations of abuse of Iraqi civilians by UK armed forces personnel in Iraq during the period of 2003 to July 2009. This in itself is extraordinary given that the MOD has spent about £60 million on IHAT, and paid out £20 million in compensation for abuse in over 300 “civil” cases (a process separate from IHAT).</p> <p>But IHAT’s focus was mainly the rank and file soldiers. There has never been a genuine attempt to prosecute the&nbsp;high-ranking&nbsp;military commanders or the senior officials who ordered and/or who were complicit in the&nbsp;commission of torture in Iraq. The IHAT may have been held up by the UK Government to the ICC Prosecutor and others as evidence that it was investigating, in order to stand up to the ICC’s ‘complementarity’ test. But has it all been an exercise in smoke and mirrors ?</p> <p>Most alarmingly, a clear picture of abuse during interrogation has emerged. In 2003, British interrogators were challenged for their use of the <a href="https://rightsinfo.org/stories/the-five-techniques/">outlawed ‘5 techniques’ - deprivation of sleep, food and drink, stress positions, hooding and subjection to ‘white noise’ (loud static)</a>, on up to 40 prisoners. Six months later, Baha Mousa was beaten to death during ‘tactical questioning’. In the <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14825889">Baha Mousa Inquiry</a> in 2010, the MOD admitted it had breached the Geneva Conventions during interrogations and this is likely to have taken place between 2003-2009. &nbsp;According to sources, the typical practice was that Iraqis were taken into armoured vehicles, beaten, then either taken for a few days to an undisclosed location to be ‘worked over’, or taken straight to detention where they would be kept for about a month, during which time they were subjected to sleep and food deprivation, stress positions, physical, sexual and religious abuse and restricted access to toilets. Many of the detainees were photographed naked. </p> <p>There are also allegations that special forces aided the rendition of Iraqi prisoners to and from secret detention facilities in the Western desert and that prisoners were not officially recorded in medical facilities, presumably so that their existence could be officially denied. Who was ultimately responsible for this?</p> <p class="xmsolistparagraph">Arguably, the UK Government has undermined the very investigative body they originally championed. They have painted a set of simple narratives: ‘Our brave troops’, ‘ambulance chasing lawyers’, ‘vexatious’, ‘spurious’ and ‘baseless’ claims. This painting of narratives was easy to do; one of the claimant lawyers was dramatically <a href="http://www.solicitorstribunal.org.uk/sites/default/files-sdt/11510.2016.Philip%20Joseph%20Shiner.pdf">struck off by the Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal</a> for his improper actions, which helped to reinforce the Government’s narrative. On the other hand, <a href="http://www.solicitorstribunal.org.uk/sites/default/files-sdt/SDT%20Press%20Release%20-%209%20June%202017_0.pdf">another firm has been cleared of any wrongdoing</a>, but this has passed almost without mention. <span class="mag-quote-center">The ethics of a lawyer in a single case doesn’t say anything about the strength or weakness of the evidence itself, which should have been independently investigated and any underlying crimes prosecuted.</span></p> <p class="xmsolistparagraph">But the ethics of a lawyer in a single case doesn’t say anything about the strength or weakness of the evidence itself, which should have been independently investigated and any underlying crimes prosecuted. Indeed, IHAT never relied exclusively on claimant lawyers for its evidence; IHAT undertook its own investigations, and there were a number of ICRC reports of abuse along with service personnel witnesses, some of whom had sounded their alarm about mistreatment as early as 2003. </p> <p class="xmsolistparagraph">Over the last year, there has been a dramatic reduction in the number of allegations being investigated, with hundreds of ongoing investigations shut down prematurely, some because of the so-called taint of the providence of the allegations – the ‘ambulance-chasing lawyers’. But many credible investigations were not being pursued, including the death of Tariq Sabri al-Fahdawi on board an RAF helicopter in Iraq in April 2003, and the death of Ahmed Jabbar Kareem Ali, an Iraqi teenager who drowned after being forced into a river by British soldiers, or even <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhOYpy0iIz8">the beating of children captured on video by News of the World</a>. And there has been an entirely unacceptable delay in investigating and prosecuting crimes where there is clear evidence of abuse.</p><p class="xmsolistparagraph">There have been a number of deaths in custody and almost six years after a major public inquiry found that Baha Mousa, a hotel receptionist, had been beaten to death by British soldiers in Basra, no new prosecutions have yet been brought. The High Court judge overseeing the ongoing civil claims against the MOD, Mr Justice Leggatt, recently described this delay as ‘extraordinarily difficult to understand.’ Apparently, Ministry of Defence civil servants began to interfere in the conduct of investigations and the vetting of evidence. Months before the plans were put in place to close IHAT down, the MOD instructed investigators that it could no longer interview service personnel as part of its investigations.&nbsp; </p> <p class="xmsonormal">Some of these tactics are similar to what has recently been revealed in the <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/rogue-sas-unit-accused-of-executing-civilians-in-afghanistan-f2bqlc897">Sunday Times’ exposé on the SAS in Afghanistan</a> – Operation Northmoor, where about 90% of the 600 allegations had been shelved. These Afghanistan allegations were generated in part by evidence supplied by soldiers and through ICRC reports.&nbsp; Operation Northmoor is being run by the SIB – the Army police investigating army alleged offences. It was determined that the Army police wasn’t sufficiently independent to carry out the investigations in Iraq; this begs the question why they are leading the investigations in Afghanistan. </p> <p>The MOD has confirmed to REDRESS that 752 of the IHAT cases concern interrogation and that the videos of some of the interrogations are held in the archives of Defence Intelligence and with IHAT. The MOD will know whether these allegations are true or not and to what extent they are to blame. It seems extraordinary that the MOD is now responsible for closing down an investigation which could legitimately question members of their own Ministry. </p> <p class="xmsolistparagraph">Now that the IHAT investigation has effectively closed, the few investigations that remain open will be transferred to a less independent process – reportedly, the Airforce police will be leading the investigations, overseen by the Provost Marshall of the RAF. This ignores the <a href="http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2011/1334.html">appellate ruling in respect of IHAT</a> which required that the investigators be hierarchically, institutionally and practically independent from those they were investigating. </p> <p class="xmsonormal">All that this shows is that the UK Government is unwilling to pay anything more than lip-service to its obligation to investigate and prosecute abuses allegedly perpetrated by service personnel and the higher echelons who ordered or condoned such acts. <span class="mag-quote-center">The UK Government is unwilling to pay anything more than lip-service to its obligation to investigate and prosecute abuses allegedly perpetrated by service personnel and the higher echelons who ordered or condoned such acts.</span></p> <p class="xmsonormal">This is why the ICC should maintain its preliminary examination and take it to the next logical step: a full blown investigation. The fact that the competent UK authorities are able to prosecute but have chosen not to do so, is a sad testament of the respect for the rule of law in this country. That the UK Government is unwilling to pursue these matters itself has now become clear. The numbers of allegations which have not been subject to independent scrutiny remains high and problematic. But furthermore, the assessment of the gravity of the alleged crimes should also take into account the abuse of power and the high prospects for impunity. </p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item even"> Afghanistan </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? North-Africa West-Asia uk Afghanistan Iraq Conflict Democracy and government International politics openJustice Carla Ferstman Sun, 16 Jul 2017 10:36:50 +0000 Carla Ferstman 112288 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Human rights protection at home and abroad: lessons to be learned from the Colombian peace process https://www.opendemocracy.net/openjustice/emily-soothill/human-rights-protection-at-home-and-abroad-lessons-to-be-learned-from-c-0 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Human rights abuses in Colombia can serve as a stark reminder of what the UK has to lose.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/aa_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/aa_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ensuring access to justice for victims of human rights abuses will be fundamental to the success of the Colombian peace process. Photo: U.S. Special Envoy for the Colombian Peace Process, Bernard Aronson, Addresses Conflict Victims. Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Department of State from United States. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Kofi Annan once said: "<em>We will not enjoy security without development, we will not enjoy development without security, and we will not enjoy either without respect for human rights</em>."&nbsp;</p><p>In the wake of rising hate crime and racist attacks following the Brexit referendum and the UN expressing “<a href="https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G16/152/41/PDF/G1615241.pdf?OpenElement" target="_blank">serious concern</a>” regarding the disproportionate and adverse impacts that austerity is having on disadvantaged and marginalised groups in the UK, this is a sentiment which the UK Government must not forget.</p><p>The salience of Kofi Annan’s message was brought home to me during a recent visit which my colleague Elisabeth Andresen and I made to Colombia as part of the fifth biennial visit of the International Caravana of Jurists (the 'Colombia Caravana'). Along with 53 other lawyers and judges from 10 different countries around the world, we visited seven regions of the country and the capital, Bogotá, in order to record testimony from human rights defenders and victims of human rights abuses.&nbsp;</p><p>This was a historic time to visit the country as on 24 August 2016 a peace agreement was signed between the Colombian government and the guerrilla movement FARC, bringing to an end a 50 year conflict which has seen hundreds of thousands killed and millions displaced. The agreement intends to establish a transitional justice system to provide reparations to victims, and hold to account those who have committed crimes during the conflict.</p><p>Although the peace process is an extremely important step forward for Colombia, it was clear from our visit that significant challenges remain. Ensuring access to justice for victims of human rights abuses, protecting human rights defenders and addressing socio-economic inequality are going to be fundamental to its success. Despite the challenges facing the UK being different in their nature, there are a number of key lessons which I will take away from our visit regarding the importance of human rights protection, both at home (where we often take our development and security for granted) and abroad. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><h2>Threats to human rights defenders&nbsp;</h2><p>One of the things that struck me most during our visit was the threats and stigmatisation faced by Colombian human rights lawyers and defenders.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-small'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/rights defender_1.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/rights defender_1.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="160" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Rommel Durán Castellanos. Melissa Tesler. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>As a lawyer in the UK, I am in the privileged position of not generally having to worry about risks to my life or being unlawfully detained as a result of the cases which I bring or the people I represent. My counterparts in Colombia, however, are not so lucky. Rommel Durán Castellanos, a human rights lawyer from the organisation <a href="http://derechodelpueblo.blogspot.co.uk/" target="_blank">Equipo Jurido Pueblos</a> in Bucaramanga, has faced arbitrary arrest and threats to his life as a result of the work that he undertakes on behalf of forcibly displaced communities and other victims of human rights abuses. &nbsp;</p><p>In the first three months of 2017 alone, the organisation <a href="https://www.somosdefensores.org/index.php/en/" target="_blank">Somos Defensores</a> estimates that 25 human rights defenders were killed in Colombia.&nbsp;</p><p>It is essential that adequate protections and guarantees are offered to these individuals who daily put their lives at risk in order to represent the most marginalised members of Colombian society.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">There are concerns that the transitional justice process will lead to a significant increase in the number of cases to be heard, and that the system will be overwhelmed</p><h2>Access to justice</h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-small'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/Palogordo prison.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/Palogordo prison.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="160" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Palogordo prison. Melissa Tesler. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Significant concerns were raised during our visit regarding the Colombian justice system being under-resourced and severely overstretched. This was particularly evident during a visit to Palogordo prison, in which we were given unprecedented access to the inner-workings of a prison where a large number of political prisoners are held.&nbsp;</p><p><span>Prison officials complained that they have insufficient resources to support the ever-expanding prison population, which is leading to severe overcrowding. A key problem is the inadequate provision of healthcare, which has led one prisoner to go on hunger strike in an attempt to persuade the prison to provide an operation he requires. &nbsp;&nbsp;</span></p><p>There were also worrying accounts of preventative detention being used. In a clear miscarriage of justice, one individual has been held on remand for five years without trial due to a lack of publicly funded lawyers and delays in the system.&nbsp;</p><p>There are legitimate concerns that the transitional justice process will lead to a significant increase in the number of cases to be heard, and that the criminal justice system will be overwhelmed. Investment in adequate resources at every level of the justice system will therefore be required in order for the peace process to succeed.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">I&nbsp;heard worrying testimony of paramilitary groups being used by multinational corporations to pursue their investment interests</p><h2>Holding multinational corporations to account</h2><p>It is anticipated that the peace process will lead to increased investment in Colombia by multinational corporations wishing to exploit the country’s mineral riches including gold, coal and oil. This offers important opportunities for the country in terms of economic development. However, it also carries significant risks.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-small'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/colombia_1.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/colombia_1.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="160" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Prisoner on hunger strike in the medical centre of Palogordo prison. Melissa Tesler. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>During our visit I heard worrying testimony of paramilitary groups being used by multinational corporations to pursue their investment interests; environmental damage being caused by investment projects; widespread land-grabbing, displacement and threats to local communities. It has also been <a href="http://colombiareports.com/coca-cola-facing-terrorism-support-charges-colombia/" target="_blank">reported</a> that over 50 companies may be charged with financing the largest paramilitary group in recent Colombian history, the AUC, as part of the transitional justice process.&nbsp;</p><p>Multinationals must ensure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses and that they comply with their obligations to respect human rights, as set out in international instruments such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The Colombian government and the international community as a whole will have a crucial role to play in this regard by holding multinational corporations to account and ensuring access to remedy.</p><p>It is also essential that the country’s social and economic development is sustainable and of benefit to all members of society. As one campesino (small-scale farmer) told me “con hambre no hay paz”: &nbsp;“with hunger, there is no peace”.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">In recent years there have been unrelenting attempts by the Conservative Government and right-wing press to redefine human rights...as mere political correctness.</p><h2>Threats to access to justice and human rights protection in the UK</h2><p>Although it may seem that the legal, economic and political situation here in the UK is far removed from that which I observed in Colombia, in reality there are very real threats to the protection of human rights here at home.&nbsp;</p><p>In recent years there have been unrelenting attempts by the Conservative Government and right-wing press to redefine human rights, including such fundamental rights and freedoms as the right to life, the right to be free from torture and the right to a fair trial, as mere "<em>political correctness</em>". The Conservative Party has pledged to replace the Human Rights Act with a "British Bill of Rights”. Theresa May has also suggested that the UK may withdraw from the European Convention of Human Rights, an international treaty drafted in response to the horrors of the Second World War to which every country in Europe is a party with the exception of the military dictatorship in Belarus.&nbsp;</p><p>Such actions would undermine the human rights protection that we currently enjoy in the UK and represent a significant step backwards at a time when progressive approaches to development and security are needed most. Over a <a href="https://www.barnardos.org.uk/what_we_do/our_work/child_poverty/child_poverty_what_is_poverty/child_poverty_statistics_facts.htm" target="_blank">quarter of children in the UK </a>are currently living in poverty and cuts to the benefits system have led to an unprecedented reliance on food banks. We have seen the dismantling of legal aid, particularly in the fields of asylum, family law and judicial review, which is significantly impeding access to justice. A recent report of the <a href="https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt201617/jtselect/jtrights/443/44302.htm" target="_blank">Joint Committee on Human Rights</a> into the UK’s compliance with international guidance on business and human rights also found that more must be done to ensure that victims of human rights abuses at the hands of UK companies have access to effective remedy. &nbsp;</p><p>Both Colombia and the UK are at important crossroads. While the peace process in Colombia offers a great deal of hope, significant challenges remain in establishing a stable and long-lasting peace. I would urge the UK while negotiating the post-Brexit landscape not to lose sight of the fundamental role which human rights play in this regard. &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p><em>For more information regarding the Colombia Caravana and to read the report of the August 2016 delegation visit: <a href="http://www.colombiancaravana.org.uk " target="_blank">www.colombiancaravana.org.uk&nbsp;</a></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openjustice/kirsty-brimelow-qc-and-jennifer-robinson/tory-manifesto-promises-floating-hollow-on-huma">A poor track record and a worrying manifesto on civil rights</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> openJustice uk openJustice Make your voice heard (openJustice) Emily Soothill Tue, 11 Jul 2017 14:57:31 +0000 Emily Soothill 111598 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Acid attacks are on the rise – the government must act now https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/caroline-lucas/acid-attacks-are-on-rise-government-must-act-now <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; line-height: normal;"><span style="mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-fareast-font-family: &amp;amp;amp; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-bidi-font-family: Calibri; mso-fareast-language: EN-GB;">Perpetrators of hate crime and gang violence are turning to easily available weapons. Muslim communities are frightened.</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p> </p><p class="MsoNormal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/resham khan_1.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/resham khan_1.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="491" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><em>Image: Resham Khan, <a href="https://www.gofundme.com/21stbirthdayacidattack">Go Fund Me</a>.</em></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>There is something particularly heinous about acid violence – it’s an act which is not only premeditated but which has the sole intent to cause lasting disfigurement.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>In East London on 21 June, Resham Khan and her cousin Jameel Mukhtar were subject to a horrific acid attack on Resham’s 21</span><span>st</span><span>&nbsp;birthday.&nbsp;<a href="https://emea01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fnews.met.police.uk%2Fnews%2Fman-sought-following-acid-attack-in-e16-248966&amp;data=02%7C01%7Cclucasmedia%40parliament.uk%7Cf7e9e527baeb42693a6a08d4c2f7db46%7C1ce6dd9eb3374088be5e8dbbec04b34a%7C0%7C0%7C636347817163284790&amp;sdata=%2B9BWr8Ex%2FLEGhPysBWYwyapgj%2F11roFip%2FzbBfXxxKs%3D&amp;reserved=0" target="_blank"><span>The perpetrator has not yet been caught</span></a>, and after a&nbsp;moving appeal by Jameel the attack was classified as a hate crime.&nbsp;</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Since the attack took place, there have been several reports on social media of acid attacks on ethnic minorities. Whilst not all the attacks have been substantiated by the police, there is a growing fear amongst Muslims that their community is being targeted. These fears are <em>completely</em> understandable – especially when placed side by side with attacks on mosques and <a href="https://emea01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.independent.co.uk%2FNews%2Fuk%2Fcrime%2Flondon-bridge-attack-latest-rise-islamophobic-hate-crimes-borough-market-stabbing-terror-police-a7777451.html&amp;data=02%7C01%7Cclucasmedia%40parliament.uk%7Cf7e9e527baeb42693a6a08d4c2f7db46%7C1ce6dd9eb3374088be5e8dbbec04b34a%7C0%7C0%7C636347817163284790&amp;sdata=BHIlkajCpMxllciuNq1M7IoI0c2lnq%2BMXf640xtMjCo%3D&amp;reserved=0" target="_blank"><span>the rise in Islamaphobic hate crime</span></a>.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>A recent freedom of information request to the Metropolitan police found that acid attacks are on the rise in London – a total of 1490 acid attacks took place in London between 2011 and 2016 with 431 attacks in 2016, compared with 261 in the previous year. This is a trend that is being replicated nationally.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Globally, acid attacks take the form of gender based violence with around 80% of attacks carried out by men on women. However, the UK seems to be bucking this trend and acid attack charities believe that corrosive substances are increasingly being used by gang members as an easily available weapon, with male-on-male attacks being more prevalent.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Acid Survivors Trust International UK has also raised concerns that acid attacks in the UK may go underreported, particularly as victims do not pursue criminal charges against attackers for fear of reprisals.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>As one of the cruellest and most callous crimes, it’s time that the Government took serious action to not only understand the rise in its use as a method of violence in the UK but to ensure that preventive measures are put in place to end acid violence. A first step would be to collect and collate data on the number acid attacks and detail its use in relation to hate crime, gang-related crime and youth crime.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>There is currently no legislation which prevents or controls the sale of corrosive substances - currently, sulphuric acid can be purchased from as little as £1 both in stores and online. In the context of a crackdown on knife crime, the Government must not forget that those who wish to cause harm will seek to find new, easily available and cheap weapons.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>I’ve tabled a series of Parliamentary Questions, asking ministers what plans they have to start collecting information on attacks so that we can start looking at a national strategy to end acid violence. These horrific attacks cannot be ignored, and it's crucial that ministers act swiftly to protect people from this particularly cruel form of violence.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk openJustice Caroline Lucas Wed, 05 Jul 2017 12:49:20 +0000 Caroline Lucas 112117 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The terrible consequences of deregulation and cutting corners https://www.opendemocracy.net/openjustice/roshan-croker/terrible-consequences-of-deregulation-and-cutting-corners <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>After Grenfell, it’s time for the government to urgently rethink its attitude to regulation.<strong></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/PA-31889586.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/PA-31889586.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="292" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>In 2016, the department for Business, Innovation & Skills boasted that the UK had the lowest burden of regulation in the G7. Photo: David Mirzoeff/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>At Prime Minister’s Questions on 28 June 2017, Jeremy Corbyn described the fire at Grenfell Tower as the “<em>terrible consequences of deregulation and cutting corners</em>”. He referred to a 40% cut in local authority budgets, leading to fewer inspectors and 11,000 fewer firefighters, and said that “this disaster must be a wakeup call” to the “disastrous effects of austerity.”</p><h2>Cutting the Red Tape</h2> <p>Since 2011, consecutive governments introduced a “one in, one out”, then “one in, two out” and now “one in, three out” rule for any new regulations. Regulations costing businesses one, two and now three times as much <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-going-further-to-cut-red-tape-by-10-billion" target="_blank">must be removed</a> before any new regulation imposing costs can be introduced. Regulations have been seen as bad for business, characterised as constricting and stifling “red tape” which requires removal. </p> <p>On 3 March 2016 a press release from the then department for Business, Innovation &amp; Skills <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-going-further-to-cut-red-tape-by-10-billion" target="_blank">boasted</a> that the UK already had the lowest burden of regulation in the G7. Now that Britain is leaving the European Union, many are demanding even more de-regulation. Leading Brexiteers and now key figures in the government, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/dec/07/tory-mps-suggest-firms-draw-up-list-for-bonfire-of-eu-laws-after-brexit" target="_blank">Michael Gove</a> and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jan/04/andrea-leadsom-vows-to-scrap-eu-red-tape-for-farmers-after-brexit" target="_blank">Andrea Leadsom</a>, have called for Brexit to be used as an opportunity to slash regulation.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Now that Britain is leaving the European Union, many are demanding even more de-regulation.&nbsp;</p> <p>At the time of writing, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jun/28/combustible-cladding-found-on-120-tower-blocks-so-far-says-pm-pmqs-grenfell-tower" target="_blank">flammable cladding has been found on every one of the 120 tower blocks</a> so far tested, it is clear that we require more and / or better regulations in order to provide adequate protection, not less. Regulations are not introduced simply to obstruct and encumber businesses. They are there to protect people, property and our environment. Many important regulations have been created following disasters in order to prevent them from occurring again. </p> <p>It is vital that we have smart regulations which are proven to provide protection in the most effective way possible. It is important that we revisit and reconsider our existing regulations. But taking a blanket approach that it is better to have less regulation can lead to governments removing vital protection, and failing to introduce regulations that could make us all safer. </p> <p>Clearly this was the case in relation to fire safety. Concerns about flammable cladding <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/24/world/europe/grenfell-tower-london-fire.html" target="_blank">were raised following a fire</a> that quickly spread up Garnock Court tower block in Irvine, Scotland in 1999. After <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/london-fire-grenfell-theresa-may-tories-accusations-fire-safety-warnings-ignored-tower-block-a7790501.html" target="_blank">six people died and more than 20 were hurt</a> in the 2009 blaze at Lakanal House in Camberwell, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/16/how-theresa-may-could-make-the-grenfell-tower-inquiry-more-credible" target="_blank">the inquest that followed highlighted</a> the fact that cladding could make a fire spread more quickly. Since the Coroner’s Report into the Lakanal House fire in 2013, the All-Party Parliamentary Fire Safety &amp; Rescue Group <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/14/review-of-fire-safety-rules-pledged-by-minister-last-year-yet-to-be-published" target="_blank">has repeatedly called</a> for a review of safety regulation to prevent any future tragedies taking place. Despite the continuing risk of tower block fires, highlighted by the Shepherd’s Bush fire in 2016, the government failed to do so.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Compounding the failure to create or maintain adequate regulations is the fact that they are often not properly enforced.</p> <p>In a debate in Parliament in 2014, the then Housing Minister Brandon Lewis <a href="https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm140206/halltext/140206h0002.htm" target="_blank">rejected calls</a> to force construction companies to fit sprinklers into any new homes, citing the need to reduce regulation and reduce obligations on housebuilders. Mr Lewis <a href="http://strongerunions.org/2017/06/21/grenfell-exposes-the-true-face-of-deregulation/" target="_blank">told MPs</a> that whilst he accepted that sprinkler systems could provide protection from fires, the government considered that instead of regulating for their use, the onus was on the fire industry to increase installation by marketing sprinkler systems more effectively.</p> <p>It is simply unacceptable that, following years of warnings, it may take a disaster on the scale of the Grenfell Tower fire to make the government reconsider improving fire safety regulations.</p> <h2>Enforcement of Regulations</h2> <p>Compounding the failure to create or maintain adequate regulations is the fact that they are often not properly enforced. The independence and importance of inspections has been reduced and government cuts have left regulators and authorities with less funding to check for regulatory compliance.</p> <p>Teresa May <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jun/28/combustible-cladding-found-on-120-tower-blocks-so-far-says-pm-pmqs-grenfell-tower" target="_blank">has said</a> that flammable cladding such as that found on Grenfell Tower was not compliant with building regulations. If this is proven then it is staggering that every one of the 120 towers which have so far been tested has featured flammable cladding. We cannot accept a situation where regulations vital to protect public safety are simply ignored. The fact that nobody had even identified this until the tragedy at Grenfell Tower shows a shocking lack of oversight which is not compatible with a satisfactory fire regulation enforcement regime.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">It is no longer necessary to have a local authority inspector check for compliance.</p> <p>At Grenfell Tower <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/15/long-builder-chain-for-grenfell-a-safety-and-accountability-issue" target="_blank">a large chain of companies was involved</a> in the refurbishment which led to the use of the cladding. In a situation where government cuts have contributed to the increasing growth of outsourcing, sufficient regulation and oversight should be in place in order to ensure that these private suppliers maintain the highest safety standards. </p> <p>However, it is no longer necessary to have a local authority inspector check for compliance. Companies are able to hire their own inspector to check that the construction meets the required standards. Under this system, in 2015 the <a href="https://cutting-red-tape.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/" target="_blank">Cabinet Office boasted</a> that some businesses had had their fire safety inspections reduced from 6 hours to 45 minutes.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Serious attempts to regulate for safety often only seem to follow a disaster.&nbsp;</p> <p>In the absence of a central regulatory body, sector bodies such as the Building Control Alliance and the National House Builders’ Council <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40418266" target="_blank">have provided advice</a> outlining how to avoid meeting the standards established in the regulations.</p> <p>Clearly the attitude that regulations are an unnecessary hindrance to business is endemic and has spread from the top. </p> <h2>Moving Towards a Better Regulatory System</h2> <p>Serious attempts to regulate for safety often only seem to follow a disaster. Changes were made following the Kings Cross Fire, the sinking of the MS Herald of Free Enterprise and the Paddington Rail disaster. The events that led to these disasters were foreseeable, and you have to wonder if deaths could have been prevented if proper attempts to regulate for safety had been made prior to these disasters occurring.</p> <p>Arguably, in the aftermath of the disaster at Grenfell Tower, the human cost of austerity cuts and the 'cutting of red tape' is laid bare for all to see. &nbsp;</p> <p>We need a transformation in attitude that rejects <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/david-cameron-i-will-kill-off-safety-culture-6285238.html" target="_blank">David Cameron’s call</a> for his government to “<em>kill off health and safety culture for good</em>”. Laurence Waterman OBE, head of Health and Safety for the London Olympics observed that “<em>we talk of red tape but never white or gold tape, or that good Health and Safety is good business</em>”. This must change.</p> <p>Without adequate regulation, along with the funding and the political will to ensure compliance, people are left exposed to unregulated and potentially dangerous products, unsure whether their homes or the items within them are safe. Failure to adequately operate a regulatory system has been shown to have damaging consequences and we should not allow an aversion to placing obligations on business trump real and justified concerns about public safety.</p> <p>We need to ensure that the regulations necessary to protect us all are created and enforced, not just to prevent another disaster like Grenfell Tower, but to ensure such disasters never happen in the first place.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/steve-tombs-and-david-whyte/on-grenfell-one-law-for-rich-one-poor">One law for the poor at Grenfell Tower</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/ryan-osullivan-matilda-wnek/where-are-missing-how-tabloids-underplayed-deaths-at-grenfell-for-the">Where are the missing? How the tabloids underplayed deaths at Grenfell for their own gain</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/jake-stanning/grenfell-tower-lack-accountability-deliberate-residents-contempt">At Grenfell, a lack of accountability was deliberate – and residents were treated with contempt</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> openJustice uk Grenfell openJustice Make your voice heard (openJustice) Grenfell Tower Fire Roshan Croker Wed, 05 Jul 2017 10:10:30 +0000 Roshan Croker 112103 at https://www.opendemocracy.net UK charity seeks funds to challenge use of painful restraints on children https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/carolyne-willow/uk-charity-seeks-funds-to-challenge-use-of-painful-restraints-on-childre <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How can it be wrong to hurt vulnerable children <em>inside</em> a secure children’s home, but all right to inflict pain in transit?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/**boy460.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/**boy460.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="295" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>image by @ReeceWykes</span></span></span></p><p>Some 200 of the most vulnerable children in England and Wales are held in secure children’s homes. The law prohibits staff from using pain-inducing restraint on children <em>inside</em> the <em>homes</em>. But <em>outside</em> the homes, on visits to court, hospital or a family funeral, pain-inducing restraint <em>is</em> permitted for those children who are remanded or sentenced. What’s more, children can be locked into a “waist restraint belt”. In relation to immigration deportation, the prisons inspectorate has warned the waist restraint belt can be used like a “body belt”,&nbsp; the most extreme form of restraint available in prison, and very rarely used.</p> <p>At the children’s rights charity Article 39, we aim to stop the authorisation of painful and unjustified restraint on vulnerable children. We’re <a href="https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/no-pain-restraint/">seeking funds to mount a legal challenge</a> against the Ministry of Justice. <span></span></p> <p>Secure children’s homes are not the same as child prisons. Of the 200 children in secure children’s homes, about half are placed there for their own welfare and half sent by criminal courts.</p><p> The needs and backgrounds of children sent by the two different routes are virtually identical.</p><p> <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/585991/key-characteristics-of-admissions-april-2014-to-march-2016.pdf">Youth Justice Board data</a> shows that 40 per cent of children sent from criminal courts to secure children’s homes in 2014-16 were children in care. Nearly half (47%) were believed to have a learning disability or difficulty. The same proportion were said by council staff to be at risk of suicide or self-harm. And 17 per cent of the children were the subject of a local authority child protection plan, meaning action was already being taken to protect them from harm.</p> <p class="p1">By anyone’s standards, children in secure children’s homes are extremely vulnerable.</p><p><a class="mag-quote-right" href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/463220/Guide_to_Children_s_Home_Standards_inc_quality_standards_Version__1.17_FINAL.pdf">“Restraint that deliberately inflicts pain cannot be proportionate and should never be used on children in children’s homes.”</a></p><p class="p1">The security company GeoAmey holds the Ministry of Justice contract to escort remanded and sentenced children to and from secure children’s homes. GeoAmey has, <a href="https://www.geoamey.co.uk/services/youth-justice-board">“a fleet of 30 vehicles designed specifically for the transportation of children and young people”,</a> according to the company’s website.</p><p class="p1"> Last year, the Youth Justice Board revealed in its annual report that the behaviour management system devised for child prisons is now used by its <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/539930/Youth_Justice_Board_Annual_Report_and_Accounts__2015_to_2016.pdf">“secure escort contractor” taking children to and from secure children’s homes</a>. This system includes techniques that deliberately inflict pain on children. A new form of restraint equipment — the “waist restraint belt” — has been added for the purposes of escorting.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Inflicting pain during restraint is banned inside children’s homes. Statutory guidance states:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/463220/Guide_to_Children_s_Home_Standards_inc_quality_standards_Version__1.17_FINAL.pdf">“Restraint that deliberately inflicts pain cannot be proportionate and should never be used on children in children’s homes.”</a></p> <p>We wanted to know what the prison service’s independent medical advisor had told the government about the safety of restraint techniques used on detained children. </p> <p class="p1">The response to our freedom of information request last September explained that the medical advisor had graded use of the techniques in different scenarios for likelihood of harm, and for the level of seriousness of potential harm. </p> <p class="p1">Of 66 scenarios, 28 were rated as 2, on a scale of 1-5, for the risk of “death or permanent severe disability affecting everyday life”. If a child is subject to restraint with a “head hold”, the waist restraint belt carries this intolerable risk, we were told. Not surprisingly, <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/543806/DSO_07-2016_Use_of_Restraints.pdf">the Home Office has banned the use of the waist restraint belt on pregnant detainees</a>.</p><p class="p1"> The Ministry of Justice told us at the same time that no child had suffered serious injury or breathing difficulties while under escort. But this doesn’t explain why the Ministry of Justice has authorised the use of pain during escort, when the Department for Education says such treatment can never be proportionate.</p><p class="p1"> There is also the question of when restraint can be lawfully used on vulnerable children. The law allows escort officers to restrain children for “good order and discipline”, even though similar statutory rules were <a href="http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2008/882.html">quashed by the Court of Appeal</a> in 2008 as a breach of article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, protection from inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. Staff working in children’s homes are not permitted to restrain children to make them follow orders.</p><div><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/ADAMRICKWOOD460.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Adam Rickwood"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/ADAMRICKWOOD460.jpg" alt="" title="Adam Rickwood" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Adam Rickwood</span></span></span></div><p>The infliction of pain on children during restraint has proved lethal.</p><p class="p1"> Fourteen year-old Adam Rickwood was remanded to a secure training centre run by Serco in Durham. There were no custodial places to begin with, so Adam was looked after in a children’s home where he settled well. Once imprisoned, his mental health severely deteriorated. He threatened to take his own life and wrote to the judge pleading for bail. </p> <p class="p1">One Sunday, around a month after Adam arrived at the secure training centre, he was instructed to go to his cell because he had passed a note between two other children. The officer who read the note disapproved of its contents. Adam asked what he had done wrong and refused to leave the communal area. The restraint procedure was activated and four officers came running into the unit, grabbed hold of Adam and carried him, face down, into his cell. One of these four officers later conceded that Adam had been calm and had even tried to defuse the situation. </p> <p class="p1">Adam struggled against the unlawful assault and was inflicted with a “nose distraction”, a restraint technique transferred from adult prisons. Officers would apply an “upward strike” to a child’s nose with the intention of causing severe pain. Adam’s nose bled for around an hour and his requests to go to hospital for an X-ray were ignored. </p> <p class="p1">Hours later, Adam was found hanging in his cell.</p> <p>Adam left behind a note for his lawyer explaining he had asked officers what gave them the right to hit a child in the nose, and they said it was restraint. </p> <p>Adam died 13 years ago. </p> <p>Since then authoritative experts and NGOs have expressed opposition to this form of restraint. They include the UN Committee Against Torture, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the UN Human Rights Council, the parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, the NSPCC and the UK’s four Children’s Commissioners.</p><p> Adam was not the only imprisoned child to die following restraint in 2004. <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/g4s-guard-fatally-restrains-15-year-old-gets-promoted">Fifteen year-old Gareth Myatt</a> was in a secure training centre in Northamptonshire run by G4S. He refused to clean a sandwich toaster because other children had also used it.</p><p> Gareth was ordered to his cell. He complied. Officers followed him and started removing his few possessions, including a piece of paper that had his mother’s new mobile phone number on it. Gareth was said to have raised his fist at this point.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/GARETH_MYATT460.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Gareth Myatt"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/GARETH_MYATT460.jpg" alt="" title="Gareth Myatt" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Gareth Myatt</span></span></span></p> <p>An officer “enveloped” Gareth who weighed just 6½ stone and stood less than five feet tall. Three officers then forced Gareth into a sitting position and bent his upper body towards his thighs and knees. They ignored his cries that he couldn’t breathe.</p><p> The terrifying ordeal lasted for six or seven minutes before Gareth lost consciousness. </p> <p>This was his first time in custody. He had been sentenced on a Friday afternoon. By the following Monday evening he was dead.</p> <p>The inquests, litigation, reviews and investigations which followed the deaths of Gareth and Adam brought into public view the reality of widespread unlawful restraint. The prison service was contracted to come up with a new system of behaviour management and restraint, and this was launched in 2012. It is called “Minimising and Managing Physical Restraint” (MMPR).&nbsp;</p><p> One-third of the restraint techniques within the MMPR system rely on the deliberate infliction of pain. The “nose distraction” that devastated Adam was replaced by the “mandibular angle technique”. </p> <p>This involves officers applying pressure behind a child’s ear at the back of the jaw. We can try and piece together what is involved by reading the instructions to trainers that haven’t been redacted (crucial bits are blacked-out): </p> <p>The instructors are told: “Emphasise staff can use finger or knuckle dependent on length of finger nails.” And: “Apply pressure inward and forward at a 45 degree angle.” </p> <p>Last year BBC Panorama <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/video/2016/jan/11/panorama-exposes-teenage-prison-abuse-video-extract">appeared to show a 14 year-old child, ‘Billy’, being subject to the mandibular angle technique</a> at Medway secure training centre, which was then run by G4S. (It was later transferred to the prison service). Billy tells the officer he can’t breathe. Panorama asked Dr Andrew McDonnell, a clinical psychologist with expertise in reducing the use of restraint, to view the video clip. He said what was done to Billy was “really dangerous”. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/fucking_door_G4S460_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Screenshot, BBC Panorama, &#039;Teenage prison abuse exposed&#039;, January 2016"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/fucking_door_G4S460_0.jpg" alt="" title="Screenshot, BBC Panorama, &#039;Teenage prison abuse exposed&#039;, January 2016" width="460" height="258" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot, BBC Panorama, 'Teenage prison abuse exposed', January 2016</span></span></span></p> <p>The mandibular angle technique features in the independent medical advisor’s assessment. When a child is standing (as Billy was) or being held down, this is also rated 2, on a scale of 1-5, for likelihood of causing death or permanent severe disability.</p><p> Adam and Gareth had both lived in children’s homes. Adam had hoped to move back to one. He kept his packed sports bag in the staff room so he could quickly leave the secure training centre once news of his bail arrived. He took his bag out of the staff room the day before he died, apparently resigned that a transfer to a children’s home was not going to happen.</p> <p>As well as prohibiting pain, children’s homes’ statutory guidance says: “Children in residential child care should be loved, happy, healthy, safe from harm and able to develop, thrive and fulfil their potential.” </p> <p>That statement is based upon centuries of learning about the needs of children, and conveys the respect we now give to children as human beings with dignity, feelings and rights. Our legal challenge seeks to uphold this commitment to children, from the moment they leave the court building. </p> <p>As a small charity, Article 39 does not have the funds to bring this vital case. We need at least £8,000 to cover our application for a costs-capping order and to pay for unavoidable court fees and charges. And so we’re asking for help. If you can, please back our CrowdJustice appeal <a href="https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/no-pain-restraint">here</a>, tell friends about our work, and share this link on social media. </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <ul><li>Edited by Clare Sambrook for&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/collections/shine-light">Shine A Light</a>&nbsp;at openDemocracy.</li><li>@CLARESAMBROOK</li><li>@SHINEreports</li></ul><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/carolyne-willow/mothers-and-sons-on-children-who-have-died-in-uk-prisons">Mothers and sons. On children who have died in UK prisons</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/g4s-guard-fatally-restrains-15-year-old-gets-promoted">G4S guard fatally restrains 15 year old - gets promoted</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/rob-preece/bullying-kids-g4s-abuse-of-child-prisoners-exposed">Bullying kids: G4S abuse of child prisoners exposed</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/people-tied-up-like-animals-on-uk-deportation-flights">People tied up ‘like animals’ on UK deportation flights</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/carolyne-willow/how-many-children-are-sexually-abused-in-prison">How many children are sexually abused in prison?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/carolyne-willow/children-suffer-racist-abuse-and-degrading-treatment-by-guards-high-on-d">Children suffer racist abuse and ‘degrading treatment’ by guards high on drugs at G4S Rainsbrook prison</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/carolyne-willow/children-s-rights-and-uk-general-election-2017">Children’s rights and the UK General Election 2017</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/carolyne-willow/five-more-arrests-and-another-critical-inspection-report-for">Five more arrests and another critical inspection report for G4S child prisons</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/carolyne-willow/safe-place-for-children-g4s-pays-for-independent-report-on-r">A safe place for children? G4S pays for “independent” report on Rainsbrook prison</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/carolyne-willow/sex-abusers-guarding-britain-s-most-vulnerable-children">The sex abusers guarding Britain’s most vulnerable children</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/carolyne-willow/prison-treacherous-place-for-child">Prison, a treacherous place for a child</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light openJustice Prisons & child prisoners Shine A Light Carolyne Willow Tue, 04 Jul 2017 12:15:47 +0000 Carolyne Willow 112071 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The fight against torture should preoccupy us all https://www.opendemocracy.net/carla-ferstman/fight-against-torture-should-preoccupy-us-all <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Torture is a calculated act of cruelty and brutality that degrades us all and weakens the rule of law. On International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, let's eradicate complicity with torture.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/SINGLE_MAN.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/SINGLE_MAN.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="425" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Single Man. Credit: Omar Daffalla Ahmed, 2016.</span></span></span>Today is the <a href="http://www.redress.org/current-campaigns/day-in-support-of-victims-of-torture-">United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture</a>. It is a day that celebrates the coming into force of the UN Convention Against Torture, on 26 June 1987, now 31 years ago. It provides an opportunity to stand in solidarity with survivors of torture and to reflect upon the practical ways to help them and to end this horrific crime. It is also a chance to underscore what is well known: torture is a calculated act of cruelty and brutality that degrades us all and weakens the rule of law. No-one should be complacent about torture.</p><p dir="ltr">This reflection on the need to eradicate torture and support survivors should be happening here in the United Kingdom, just as it must be happening elsewhere.</p><p dir="ltr">A strong and consistent anti-torture stance in foreign policy is vital for the government’s work to promote respect for human rights around the world. This means that the government should not only voice its abhorrence to torture but actively engage its partners. It should <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jan/26/mps-call-on-theresa-may-to-stand-up-to-trump-over-torture-remarks">voice its objections to torture</a> to those who laud its use, should refrain from providing material, selling specialist equipment or providing training or <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/law/2015/jul/15/sudanese-refugee-accuses-uk-complicity-rights-abuses">other assistance to foreign governments </a>that could be used to foster the practice of torture, and should distance itself from joint intelligence work with regimes that regularly resort to torture during interrogations.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The government should distance itself from joint intelligence work with regimes that regularly resort to torture during interrogations.</p><p dir="ltr">A strong anti-torture stance is also crucial to protect the <a href="http://www.redress.org/current-campaigns/uk-consular-assistance-campaign">numerous Britons who are arbitrarily detained in countries around the world</a>, many at risk of torture and other cruel treatment. It is estimated that over 5,000 British and dual nationals are arrested and detained abroad at any given time. Many are at risk of or actually suffer torture and other ill-treatment while in detention – these are people like <a href="https://youtu.be/Z7Aa_QzSgjU">Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe</a> in Iran, and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/aug/15/activist-andargachew-tsege-eprdf-death-row-ethiopia-kidnap">Andy Tsege</a> in Ethiopia.</p><p dir="ltr">In both cases, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has called publicly for their release. It is important for the UK government to do the same, and to impress upon those detaining countries that it will not tolerate such treatment of its nationals under any circumstances. The government should be looking to intensify its demarches. It should not be satisfied with the status quo: families separated from their loved ones, fearing the worst about their treatment. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Today, we are also reminded that support and assistance to victims of torture, and those at risk of torture is not a negotiable principle. But there is a tendency to treat this commitment as optional.</p><ul><li dir="ltr"><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">Many women, men and children fleeing torture in their home countries have not received protection in the UK, and the Government has continued to resist calls to take more responsibility for hosting refugees. Some vulnerable torture survivors have been subjected to lengthy periods of immigration detention, despite rules which outlaw the practice. The Government has also signed agreements with countries that regularly resort to torture, like Morocco, Lebanon, Jordan and Ethiopia, to facilitate the transfer of undesirable persons to those countries, even though the persons would be in danger of being subjected to torture.</p></li><li class="blockquote-new">All survivors should have access to rehabilitation services and specialist medical care, but this is not uniformly in place, despite the huge needs survivors face.</li><li class="blockquote-new">Restrictions with access to legal aid and tightening of judicial review procedures have reduced access to courts which has impeded many survivors’ access to reparation for the harm they suffered, as have immunities and other procedural bars. &nbsp; &nbsp;</li></ul><p dir="ltr">All credible torture allegations should be investigated and prosecuted where the evidence so supports, including all those who encouraged, ordered, tolerated or perpetrated the acts. And, access to independent court should not be curtailed, regardless of who the alleged perpetrators or victims are. But certain criminal investigations into torture allegations have been disbanded, and accountability has been obfuscated further by inquiries that have stalled or ended prematurely, with the remnants of investigations passed on to much less independent internal investigatory processes.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/20_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/20_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="650" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Piece no. 20, 2005, created as part of the group "Artists for Human Rights". Credit: Khartoum Center for Human Rights & Environmental Development. </span></span></span></p><ul><li dir="ltr"><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">The <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/groups/iraq-historic-allegations-team-ihat">Iraq Historical Allegations Team</a> (IHAT), established in 2010, has <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/10/iraq-war-claims-unit-to-be-shut-down-says-uk-defence-secretary">effectively closed</a>, with the remaining investigations, including that of <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-14698722">Baha Mousa</a>’s death following brutal torture in detention, to be taken over by the Royal Navy Police.</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">The judge-led Detention Inquiry (the Gibson Inquiry), set up in 2010 to look into whether UK security agencies were complicit in extraordinary rendition and torture, was <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jul/06/gibson-inquiry-rendition-david-cameron-uk-torture">prematurely terminated in 2012</a>, and later transferred the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC). The ISC inquiry remains pending but <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/25/uk-failure-to-come-clean-over-rendition-is-scandalous-tory-mp-andrew-tyrie">with little publicly known progress</a>, hampering the public’s right to know what happened, and impeding the learning of lessons to avoid recurrence.</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">Similarly, independent inquiry processes for serious conflict-era crimes including torture in <a href="http://a">Northern Ireland</a> have been piecemeal.</p></li></ul><p dir="ltr">As the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence has noted in relation to Northern Ireland, but which could apply equally to other <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Truth/A_HRC_34_62_Add_1_en.docx">inquiry processes</a>: “it is critical to direct attention to instruments that might capture the more “structural” dimension of violations and abuses, so that victims and society received answers on whether the violations were part of a pattern reflecting a policy under the responsibility of institutions with identifiable chains of command.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The arrest of General Pinochet underscored the principle that torturers could not escape justice, no matter how hard they may try</p><p dir="ltr">The <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/article/the-arrest-of-augusto-pinochet-ten-years-on">arrest of former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet in London</a>, now almost 20 years ago, underscored the principle that torturers could not escape justice, no matter how hard they may try. There should be no safe havens for torture. But there have been only a few prosecutions in the intervening years – the trial of an <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4695353.stm">Afghan warlord</a> and a <a href="http://www.redress.org/downloads/pressreleasekumarlama060916.pdf">Nepali military officer</a>. Special mission immunities have increasingly been used to protect officials from friendly governments such as <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/02/egyptian-opposition-legal-battle-uk-immunity-sisi-aide">Egypt</a> and <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2011/10/201110912402659549.html">Israel</a>, faced with the threat of arrests. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Eradicating torture and supporting survivors requires a series of interlinked measures, alongside long-term commitments. Work on only part of the picture can serve to impede progress as a whole. It is important for the government to stick firm to the principles underpinning the values it espouses.</p><p dir="ltr">The Brexit process, the plans for a new Bill of Human Rights and the stated intention to derogate in future from the European Court of Human Rights to restrict the application of human rights during conflict, these should not be allowed to erode the crucial protections that are now in place. We all have a role to see that rights are strengthened, not eroded.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/british-torture-in-iraq-and-state-s-corporate-memory-loss">British torture in Iraq and the state’s ‘corporate memory loss’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/steffen-jensen-tobias-kelly/missing-torture-amongst-poor">Missing torture amongst the poor</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> openJustice Carla Ferstman Mon, 26 Jun 2017 10:55:24 +0000 Carla Ferstman 111893 at https://www.opendemocracy.net One law for the poor at Grenfell Tower https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/steve-tombs-and-david-whyte/on-grenfell-one-law-for-rich-one-poor <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In austerity Britain, can justice and accountability be served for the victims of the Grenfell fire? Or are our laws already too much shaped to the needs of the business class?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/35353492476_e6860be791_h.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/35353492476_e6860be791_h.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Devastation at Grenfell Tower. ChiralJon/Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Days after the Grenfell Tower disaster, London Mayor Sadiq Khan expressed the sentiments of many, not least the bereaved, the survivors and the local community at large, when he <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jun/18/sadiq-khan-grenfell-tower-tragedy-establish-full-truth">stated </a>that, “if negligence or other wrongdoing by individuals or companies played any role whatsoever, I will fight for the full force of the law to be brought to bear.” But what exactly is the full force of the law in this case?</p><p dir="ltr">One demand has been that those who had the knowledge and ability to prevent what has happened should be prosecuted for corporate manslaughter. And the fire at Grenfell seems exactly the kind of disaster which the Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act was introduced in 2007 to deal with. Yet in almost 10 years since it was introduced, the law has only been used successfully 21 times – and <a href="https://oucriminology.wordpress.com/icccr-online-series/corporate-killing-with-impunity/">in no cases has a large organization been convicted</a> following a multi-fatality disaster. In fact, following the deaths of six people at the Lakenal tower block in 2009, the CPS eventually decided against pursuing a case of corporate manslaughter against Southwark council despite the fact that the council “<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-18280160">knew the building posed a fire risk but did not act and had not carried out a fire risk assessment</a>.”</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">Even the laws that appear to be holding the wealthy to account tend to do nothing of the sort.</p><p dir="ltr">In any case, the scope of this relatively new law was carefully shaped to the needs of the business class rather than ordinary people. Champagne and Pimms glasses would no doubt have been chinking in some parts of Kensington and Chelsea when the Blair government announced in 2006 that the new law would grant <a href="http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2007/19/section/18">a blanket exemption</a> to directors and senior individuals in organizations. This means that the most likely result of any such prosecution is a fine against the organization (and in this case the costs of a fine against the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council (RBKC) would ultimately fall on local taxpayers). It is a prime example of what happens so often in our legal system: even the laws that appear to be holding the wealthy to account tend to do nothing of the sort.</p><p dir="ltr">Some senior experts have noted that there may be evidence to support a different approach, a prosecution of individuals for the common law offence of manslaughter. We already know unequivocally from the testimonies of the Grenfell Tower Residents Association, that the RBKC was told about the fire risks, and were warned of specific risks on multiple occasions. Yet apparently there was no adequate fire safety assessment.</p><p dir="ltr">Here we confront a much deeper problem with the law designed to regulate organizations and businesses. Regulation has been on the back-foot in the UK for some 30 years. Successive governments have virtually mandated a withdrawal from law enforcement in health and safety and in local authority regulation.</p><p dir="ltr">When David Cameron <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/david-cameron-i-will-kill-off-safety-culture-6285238.html">pledged </a>to kill off health and safety for good, he followed a long line of governments desperate to prove their <a href="https://www.crimeandjustice.org.uk/publications/better-regulation-better-whom">pro-business credentials</a> by cutting inspection and prosecution, and stripping back regulations. In most recent years, austerity cuts have taken us to the point that the average workplace can now expect an inspector to call once every 50 years.</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">The cuts to fire and rescue services have fallen hardest on the poorest.</p><p dir="ltr">Fire protection has been similarly compromised by the cuts. A <a href="https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Financial-sustainability-of-fire-and-rescue-services-summary-amended.pdf">report </a>by the National Audit Office shows that between 2010 and 2015 funding for stand-alone fire and rescue authorities fell by 28% on average in real terms. Savings came predominantly from reducing staff costs and reducing audits, inspections and fire risk checks. The result: fire safety checks in tower blocks <a href="http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/tower-block-fire-safety-checks-10641046">fell </a>25% in the most recent 5 years. Perhaps most alarmingly in light of Grenfell, the report noted that the government had “reduced funding most to fire and rescue authorities with the highest levels of need….as defined by the social and demographic factors.” In other words, the cuts to fire and rescue services have fallen hardest on the poorest –&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/vickie-cooper/government-austerity-demands-that-we-die-within-our-means">just like all austerity cuts</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">More generally, at local authority level, since the cuts began to bite, campaigns to enforce regulation against business have become almost extinct. This is because most councils, unlike RBKC, have <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/aug/25/councils-poorest-areas-biggest-cuts-labour-says">reached rock bottom</a> in terms of their ability to maintain services. As an Environmental Health Officer in Merseyside <a href="https://oucriminology.wordpress.com/">put it </a>to one of us recently: “it’s going to come to the point where it’s going to affect the residents, the local population, in many ways we are at that point now, public health and protection is being eroded.” Even more galling is that RBKC, the richest borough in London and one of the few councils that remains cash-rich, is choosing law enforcement on behalf of the rich over enforcing the law in the general interest.</p><p dir="ltr">We know this by looking closely at what building enforcement officers in Kensington and Chelsea have been doing in recent years. In 2015 RBKC embarked on a major campaign to stop construction companies displaying unlawful and ugly advertisements and messages on the side of the buildings. At the time, RBKC planning policy head <a href="http://www.getwestlondon.co.uk/news/local-news/developers-warned-comply-strict-advertising-9945778">Cllr Timothy Coleridge said</a>:</p><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">“Unfortunately, some developers ignore the rules and turn their hoardings and scaffolding covers into huge adverts, sometimes in the heart of historic and sensitive residential areas. This is unfair on our residents and it is unfair on those developers that follow the rules and we will prosecute when required.”</p><p dir="ltr">In other words, this was a law enforcement campaign aimed at enhancing the aesthetic appeal of the area, and maintaining the successful gentrification of the area, rather than ensuring high standards of building renovation for working class residents.</p><p dir="ltr">The public inquiry and inquests will seek to learn how we can prevent another Grenfell Tower happening again. If the police and the CPS are serious about using the full force of the law, it may well be possible to prosecute for corporate manslaughter and for common law manslaughter. Individuals in charge of key decisions can be held accountable for this latter offense if they have acted with gross negligence and have breached a particular duty of care. It is very possible those conditions will be met in the case of Grenfell Tower.</p><p dir="ltr">By contrast, a lack of prosecution will send a clear and powerful message: that <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81IKostVXZk">justice and accountability cannot be served in austerity Britain</a>. But the solution to what happened at Grenfell will not be found in the courts. If there is one resounding lesson that must be learned, it is that any future government must reverse 30 years of attacks on regulation and law enforcement and cease this war against the poor.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/vickie-cooper/government-austerity-demands-that-we-die-within-our-means">Government austerity demands that we die within our means</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/christine-berry/after-grenfell-ending-murderous-war-on-our-protections">After Grenfell: ending the murderous war on our protections</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay/fire-in-worlds-laudromat">A fire in the world&#039;s laundromat</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Grenfell openJustice Grenfell Tower Fire David Whyte Steve Tombs Wed, 21 Jun 2017 10:17:19 +0000 Steve Tombs and David Whyte 111783 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A poor track record and a worrying manifesto on civil rights https://www.opendemocracy.net/openjustice/kirsty-brimelow-qc-and-jennifer-robinson/tory-manifesto-promises-floating-hollow-on-huma <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:DocumentProperties> <o:Revision>0</o:Revision> <o:TotalTime>0</o:TotalTime> <o:Pages>1</o:Pages> <o:Words>34</o:Words> <o:Characters>194</o:Characters> <o:Company>Symington</o:Company> <o:Lines>1</o:Lines> <o:Paragraphs>1</o:Paragraphs> <o:CharactersWithSpaces>227</o:CharactersWithSpaces> <o:Version>14.0</o:Version> </o:DocumentProperties> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG ></o> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> 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SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Book Title" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="37" Name="Bibliography" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" QFormat="true" Name="TOC Heading" ></w> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--> <!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-ansi-language:EN-US;} --> <!--[endif] --> <!--StartFragment--> <!--EndFragment--></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align: justify; text-justify: inter-ideograph; mso-pagination: none; mso-layout-grid-align: none; text-autospace: none;">After the surpising 2017 general election, opposition parties have a golden opportunity to stand up for the rights of UK citizens.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/PA-31596422.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/PA-31596422.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>May on a visit to Nishkam Primary School in Birmingham during a general election campaign visit to the West Midlands. Photo credit: Press Association/Stefan Rousseau. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>In an era of fake news and alternative facts, Theresa May’s attempt to portray her party as the party of workers is apposite in its audacity. From promises to put a stop to gender and racial discrimination at work, to promises to better protect vulnerable children and domestic violence victims, to digital rights, their manifesto for the 2017 election rings hollow and hypocritical when we consider successive Tory government legislative agendas.</span></p> <p>Promises to end gender and racial discrimination in the workplace can only be gossamer thin when the enforcement of those rights remain beyond the means of most workers. Employment tribunal fees of £1200&nbsp;<span>–&nbsp;</span><span>introduced under David Cameron&nbsp;</span><span>–&nbsp;</span><span>mean that many workers cannot afford to bring claims. Studies have shown this has reduced the number of claims by 67% – 60% in racial discrimination claims and 87% in sex discrimination claims, with women and low-paid workers hardest hit. Citizens Advice reports seven out of 10 successful claims are not taken and more than half of those interviewed said fees and costs deterred them. Legal protections against gender and racial discrimination are meaningless if people cannot enforce those rights. Without justice there is impunity and employers can get away with precisely the kinds of discrimination the Tory manifesto says May will stop. For this very reason,&nbsp;Labour have promised to scrap the fees. But May's manifesto says nothing about scrapping the fees – or rolling back the damage her party has inflicted upon workers' rights.</span></p> <p>The manifesto's references to "<em>work incentivisation</em>" are merely euphemisms for welfare reforms driving more people into poverty. One example is the "<em>benefit cap</em>" – an arbitrary cap on benefits tied to the minimum wage and divorced from actual need – which May says is encouraging more people into work and out of poverty, but in fact is forcing thousands, particularly single mothers with small children into homelessness. It is currently subject to legal challenge on the grounds it discriminates against women and the vulnerable children the Tory manifesto says they want to protect.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">As a result of austerity measures the U.K. has been found in breach of its international human rights obligations by the UN Committee on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights.</p> <p><span>Another example is the limit of universal tax credit to families with more than two children. Designed, in effect, to deter low-income families from having more children, the scheme includes the now infamous "<em>rape clause</em>" providing an exception for women whose child is the product of rape or others domestic violence or abuse where pregnancy is not a free choice. To obtain the tax credit, women must suffer the indignity of sharing this deeply personal and traumatic experience with tax authorities.</span></p> <p><span>As a result of these and other austerity measures, the U.K. has been found in breach of its international human rights obligations by the UN Committee on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights, which was&nbsp;“<em>seriously concerned</em>” about “<em>the disproportionate adverse impact that austerity measures</em>”&nbsp;are having on&nbsp;women, the disabled, and disadvantaged and marginalised groups.</span></p> <p>Yet despite this warning and the alarming rise in poverty, May has implemented a new, even lower benefit cap which experts say will put a further 50,000 households and an estimated 126,000 children in poverty. And the manifesto reaffirms its commitment to further cuts.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Child poverty in Britain is already at a record high, with around 30% of children – 4 million children – living in poverty.</p> <p>The Institute for Financial Studies further warned that the plans and "<em>big cuts</em>" set out in the Tory manifesto would, if implemented, condemn Britain to five more years of austerity,&nbsp;causing serious damage to public services.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Imagine what another five years will do for the rights of vulnerable children? Child poverty in Britain is already at a record high, with around 30% of children – 4 million children – living in poverty. Britain has plummeted on the world rankings on provision for children's rights and services - dropping from 11th to 146th on the Tory government's watch. Continuing to pursue further cuts without a clear plan of how to redress the damage they have already done, doesn't sounds like a plan "<em>to protect vulnerable children</em>", as the Tory manifesto announced.</p> <p><span>Unaccompanied refugee children were left in the Calais Jungle at risk of being trafficked on May's watch. The Tory government bungled the consultation required by the Dubs Amendment to determine how many of these vulnerable children Britain could protect, grossly underestimating local authority capacity and community support to bring them to safety. Their failure has put those vulnerable children at risk of modern slavery and sex trafficking.</span></p> <p>How about children being held overnight in police cells? The practice is, as May herself admitted as Home Secretary, unlawful and widespread. Thousands of children, as young as 8, have been held in police cells overnight: a distressing and damaging experience as well as being in breach of domestic and international law. Prime Minister May failed to end the practice.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">If Theresa May succeeds in removing human rights protections in Britain, it will be&nbsp;the&nbsp;most repressive&nbsp;and persecutory states that cheer the loudest.</p> <p>The manifesto also purports to address "<em>digital rights</em>", but in fact is proposing a regime which controls what kind of information we can share and access online, which has been criticised by free speech and online rights groups as a new form of censorship. </p> <p><span>And what about the promise that the UK will not withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights during the next Parliament? On 7&nbsp;</span><span>June 2017, the day before the 2017 General Election, that pledge appeared to be bent into an opaque and confused U-turn. May volunteered to rip up the Human Rights Act to purport to give her government the powers it already has to fight terrorism. In so doing, she undermined the 800 years of protections for British people fought for by British people.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>If Theresa May succeeds in removing human rights protections in Britain, it will be&nbsp;the&nbsp;most repressive&nbsp;and persecutory states that cheer the loudest. We hope that opposition MPs stand firmly against this threat. The Tory manifesto and its underpinning of previous government acts ring hollow and hypocritical when it comes to human rights.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openjustice/amanda-shah/fate-of-children-from-jungle">The fate of the &#039;jungle&#039; children</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/natalie-sedacca/civil-liberties-and-human-rights-what-s-at-stake-in-2017-general-election">Civil liberties and human rights – what’s at stake in the UK&#039;s 2017 General Election? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openjustice/laura-janes/draconian-cuts-to-legal-aid-for-prisoners-found-to-be-unlawful-by-court-of-a">Draconian cuts to legal aid for prisoners found to be unlawful by Court of Appeal </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openjustice/melissa-darnbrough-and-nadia-hussain/when-no-good-deed-goes-unpunished">When no good deed goes unpunished</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openjustice/ronagh-craddock/asylum-seekers-are-left-destitute-and-homeless-due-to-lack-of-legal-aid">Asylum seekers are left destitute and homeless due to a lack of legal aid </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openjustice/children-in-custody-need-protection-not-cruelty-and-bullying">Children in custody need protection, not cruelty and bullying </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> openJustice uk openJustice Justice for the rich alone? (openJustice) Kirsty Brimelow QC and Jennifer Robinson Thu, 08 Jun 2017 09:48:01 +0000 Kirsty Brimelow QC and Jennifer Robinson 111512 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Do more police mean less crime? https://www.opendemocracy.net/openjustice/richard-garside/do-more-police-mean-less-crime <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Labour and the Liberal Democrats are both pledging an increase in police officer numbers. Are these plans a welcome investment or a symbolic bit of electioneering?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/Tackling_anti-social_behaviour_on_patrol.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/Tackling_anti-social_behaviour_on_patrol.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A key policy challenge is not recruiting more police officers, but using the time of existing officers more effectively. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/West Midlands Police. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>There are around 20,000 fewer police officers across England and Wales than there were in 2010. Does that make us less safe? Are our homes more likely to be burgled? Are we more at risk of assault, or worse?</p><p>Awful recent events in Manchester and South London have sharpened the debate about police officer numbers in relation to terrorism. But what about the more conventional and common victimisations that it is supposedly the job of the police to tackle?</p> <p>Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have gone into the General Election promising more police officers. Labour claims that cuts in officer numbers “<em>endanger communities and endanger police officers</em>”. The Liberal Democrats pledge to “<em>increase community policing... to reverse the increase in violent crime</em>”.</p><p>Labour proposes to recruit “<em>10,000 more police officers to work on community beats, equivalent to at least one more for every neighbourhood in the country</em>”. The Liberal Democrats are pledging “<em>an additional £300 million a year to local police forces to reverse the increase in violent crime, boost community confidence and increase the flow of community intelligence</em>”. Are these plans a welcome investment in public safety, or a largely symbolic bit of electioneering?</p> <p>Back in 1984, two Home Office researchers – Ron Clarke and Mike Hough – wrote a paragraph that has gone down in policing studies folklore:</p> <p class="blockquote-new">“given present burglary rates and evenly distributed patrol coverage, a patrolling policeman (sic) in London could expect to pass within 100 yards of a burglary in progress roughly once every eight years – but not necessarily catch the burglar or even realise that the crime was taking place."</p> <p>Various echoes of this striking formulation have been heard down the years. In <em>The Times</em> in November 2009, for instance, the then President of the Association of Chief Police Officers, Sir Hugh Orde, wrote that it was “<em>quite scary if people who are claiming to represent communities see the solution simply as more cops on the street while all the evidence shows that if you’re a patrolling officer the chance of coming within half a mile of a burglary is about once every 150 years</em>”.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">An additional 10,000 police, costing £300 million a year, would equate to 20,000 fewer burglaries annually, or £15,000 for each burglary prevented.</p> <p>A review for the Inspectorate of Constabulary in 2011 found some evidence of an association between police officer numbers and property offences. It estimated that “<em>a 10 per cent increase in officers will lead to a reduction in crime of around 3 per cent</em>”. Labour estimates that the annual cost of its additional 10,000 police officers will be £300 million, equal to the Liberal Democrat proposal. The <em>Crime Survey for England and Wales</em> estimated that there were 664,000 domestic burglaries in the 12 months to December 2016. Putting these figures together, we might say that an additional 10,000 police, costing £300 million a year, would equate to 20,000 fewer burglaries annually, or £15,000 for each burglary prevented. That’s an expensive way of making a few houses across the country more secure.</p> <p>So what is to be done? A study by the College of Policing in 2015 found that 84% of calls to the police were related to non-crime incidents: notably concerns over an individual’s welfare. This suggests that a key policy challenge is not recruiting more police officers, but using the time of existing officers more effectively. As Theresa May told the Police Federation conference in May 2015, when she was still Home Secretary, police officers are "<em>not social workers... mental health nurses, or paramedics</em>".</p> <p>Rather than recruiting more police officers, whichever party or parties form the next government would be better advised to rebuild those social services – such as mental health, housing support, social work, youth work – that have been decimated by years of austerity. That way, a smaller police force could be left to concentrate on the 16% of calls they receive that are actually about law-breaking.</p> <p><em>Richard Garside’s assessment of the main crime and justice manifesto commitments can be read here: <a href="https://www.crimeandjustice.org.uk/publications/assessing-general-election-manifestos">https://www.crimeandjustice.org.uk/publications/assessing-general-election-manifestos</a></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openjustice/will-mcmahon/we-dont-need-more-police-we-need-shift-of-responsibilities">We don&#039;t need more police, we need a shift of responsibilities</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> openJustice uk openJustice Richard Garside Tue, 30 May 2017 14:39:48 +0000 Richard Garside 111266 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The fate of the 'jungle' children https://www.opendemocracy.net/openjustice/amanda-shah/fate-of-children-from-jungle <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A study of the experiences of children from the Calais 'jungle', now claiming asylum in the North West of England, shows why we must speak up for the rights of refugees.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/PA-30410661.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/PA-30410661.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="295" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The children in this study have all been in the transit camp in Calais – the caricatured ‘jungle’– living with up to 10,000 other people. They are all now dealing with the arbitrary bureaucracy of the Home Office, trying to make their asylum claims in the UK. Photo credit: Press Association/Chris Radburn. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>The door into <a href="http://www.gmiau.org" target="_blank">Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit</a> is on the corner of two busy roads near a hospital in north Manchester. Nestling between a barbers with a budgie in the window and a pharmacy, it is busy today. Lots of people go through our door. Inside the waiting room is full. Drinks and biscuits need topping up regularly as people sit and wait. There is something unusual about lots of the people waiting. They are children.</p> <p>Although they have different accents, clothes, haircuts and skin tones the children have something in common. They have come to the UK to claim asylum and they have walked through the door to meet their legal representative - someone who will work with them to try and make sense of the letters, the appointments, the officials and the uncertainty.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The lack of legal routes to claim asylum in the UK has left them traumatised&nbsp;not just by the experiences that caused them to flee their counties of origin, but by Europe’s collective inability to provide them safe passage.</p> <p>They are far from a homogenous group, despite the tabloid headlines. But this group of children have all been in the transit camp in Calais – the caricatured ‘jungle’– living with up to 10,000 other people in a shanty town on the shores of the English Channel. They are all now dealing with the arbitrary bureaucracy of the Home Office, trying to make their asylum claims. Many have experienced sensitive, child-centred, compassionate interviews from Home Office caseworkers in Liverpool. Many have also been subject to a sudden, illogical Home Office decision earlier this year that meant instead of making their asylum claim in Greater Manchester they had to travel to Croydon. </p> <p>All of the children are dealing with the aftermath of precarious journeys. The lack of legal routes to claim asylum in the UK has left them traumatised not just by the experiences that caused them to flee their counties of origin, but by Europe’s collective inability to provide them safe passage. </p> <p>We studied the experiences of 40 children we represent who had all spent time in the Calais camp before coming to the North West of England. Many spent several months surviving in Calais on their own. Some experienced the <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-37773848" target="_blank">French security operation in October 2016 to clear the camp</a> – proving in their minds that they could not safely claim asylum in France. Some have been street homeless in Paris. Five were accidentally separated from family members in the chaos of travelling across Europe, including one who became lost during police action to clear a train. One of our caseworkers described two brothers she is representing as "emotionally worn down" by their experiences in Calais which are "etched on their faces".</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Five of the children were accidently separated from family members in the chaos of travelling across Europe,&nbsp;including one who became lost during police action to clear a train.&nbsp;</p> <p>Now in the North West, the children’s experiences of life in the UK are proving quite different from one another:</p> <p>Hassan is claiming asylum in the UK because his sister lives in Greater Manchester with her British husband and their small child. An EU Regulation called ‘<a href="http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32013R0604&amp;from=EN" target="_blank">Dublin III</a>’ meant he could ask the UK authorities to decide his asylum claim here rather than have it decided in France. He lives with his sister and her family, sleeping in the living room of their one bedroom flat.</p> <p>Helen was transferred to the UK from Calais as a ‘Dubs child’, so-called because of the work of Lord Alf Dubs to persuade the UK government to take in unaccompanied children stuck in France, Italy or Greece. Helen was transferred to the UK as the Calais camp was being cleared, and is living with a foster carer in Greater Manchester. She is one of around only 200 <a href="http://safepassage.org.uk/news_posts/citizens-uk-legal-action-forces-government-to-reveal-restrictions-on-children-who-qualify-for-sanctuary-under-dubs-amendment/" target="_blank">Dubs children in the UK, despite initial hopes that up to 3,000 children would be offered a way to avoid the people smugglers and traffickers.</a></p><p class="mag-quote-center">Like over a third of the children in our research who came from Calais on a lorry, Jamal's age was disbelieved by the Home Office.</p><p><a href="http://safepassage.org.uk/news_posts/citizens-uk-legal-action-forces-government-to-reveal-restrictions-on-children-who-qualify-for-sanctuary-under-dubs-amendment/" target="_blank"> </a></p><p>Jamal came to the UK from France hiding on a lorry through the Eurotunnel. Like over a third of the children in our research who came from Calais on a lorry, his age was disbelieved by the Home Office. In an atmosphere where <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/10/19/calais-child-migrants-pmqs-theresa-may-jeremy-corbyn-live/" target="_blank">MPs demand children’s teeth are x-rayed</a> to prove they are not adults, it is perhaps unsurprising that children are told they are lying about their ages. We see children housed with adults and subject to regular reporting with immigration enforcement (as happened to Jamal) or even locked up in adult detention centres. It took a community care solicitor to get the Home Office to accept an assessment by social workers that Jamal is a child. </p> <p>Helen and Jamal are both in the UK without family. They are ‘looked after’ by Greater Manchester local authorities with an allocated social worker to support them and access to <a href="https://www.gov.uk/legal-aid/overview" target="_blank">legal aid</a> to fund advice and representation for their asylum claim.</p> <p>Hassan and his sister have a different set of challenges. Because Hassan has a family member in the UK, unlike Helen and Jamal he is not automatically entitled to legal aid. In fact, because Hassan’s sister has been saving for years to go to college, her savings mean Hassan does not qualify. This was the case with nearly a fifth of the Dublin III families we looked at in our research. Without legal aid the children have to rely on newly reunited family paying thousands of pounds for private legal help, representing themselves or withdrawing their asylum claim.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Financial strain was a primary concern for 44% of the Dublin III families in our research and clearly escalates the risk of the family breaking down.&nbsp;</p> <p>Hassan also doesn’t have an allocated social worker – social services decided that as he is living with family he is not in need. In fact his sister is struggling with her changing family dynamics, looking after her small son and navigating Hassan’s financial, immigration, education and medical needs. The lack of financial support she receives to cover the cost of caring for Hassan has been a shock and she is struggling to understand how the welfare benefits system applies to a child in Hassan’s situation. Financial strain was a primary concern for 44% of the Dublin III families in our research and clearly escalates the risk of the family breaking down. This has already happened in one of the families we work with and the child is now living in foster care.</p> <p>Some of the children in our research have walked back through our door in north Manchester to receive good news. Nearly 60% have been granted asylum, more still are awaiting a decision. Others have walked back in to prepare to appeal their asylum refusal – stuck with discretionary leave only until they are 17.5 years old. More uncertainty ahead.</p> <p>Our work with children from Calais has left us in no doubt of the need for children to be protected from harm and exploitation by <a href="http://gmiau.org/let-the-children-in/" target="_blank">safe and legal routes</a> to claim asylum in the UK. We also believe that all children claiming asylum in the UK need to be properly supported and have <a href="http://gmiau.org/calais-children-need-lawyer/" target="_blank">access to an experienced immigration lawyer</a> to make their asylum claim. Without these things, children will continue to arrive in the UK with their experiences "etched on their faces" and without the assistance they so badly need to help them recover.</p> <p><em><em>This article is based on research in a </em><a href="http://gmiau.org/briefing-paper-experiences-children-calais-camp-north-west-england/" target="_blank">Briefing paper on the experiences of children from the Calais camp in the North West of England</a></em><em> by Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit.&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openjustice/ronagh-craddock/asylum-seekers-are-left-destitute-and-homeless-due-to-lack-of-legal-aid">Asylum seekers are left destitute and homeless due to a lack of legal aid </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> openJustice uk openJustice Amanda Shah Tue, 30 May 2017 06:03:04 +0000 Amanda Shah 111225 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Civil liberties and human rights – what’s at stake in the UK's 2017 General Election? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/natalie-sedacca/civil-liberties-and-human-rights-what-s-at-stake-in-2017-general-election <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Human rights are<em> </em>important for everyone, because without the right to protest against particular policies it is much more difficult to influence and hold to account whichever government is elected on 8 June.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/640px-West_Midlands_Police_Handsworth_riots_1985.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/640px-West_Midlands_Police_Handsworth_riots_1985.jpeg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>West Midlands Police equipped with "long shield" riot gear of the type used at Orgreave. Handsworth, Birmingham, 1985.Flickr/West Midland police. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>With the general election on 8 June fast approaching, and the contest looking closer than anticipated, this article looks at the issue of human rights and civil liberties. It offers a snapshot of some key debates and areas of disagreement, with its main focus on the positions of the two major parties as set out in their manifestos and other recent announcements. </p> <h2><strong>The European Convention of Human and the Human Rights Act 1998 </strong></h2> <p>The Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) was introduced early in the first New Labour government and had the effect of bringing the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) into domestic law, so that individuals no longer had to take their cases to the European Court of Human Rights to enforce their convention rights. </p> <p>It placed a duty on public authorities in the UK to act in compliance with those rights, and allowed individuals to bring claims and public law challenges based on those rights in the domestic courts. As a result, rights have become easier to enforce – for example, some survivors of rape and sexual assault failed by authorities such as the police have been able to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/mar/10/police-appeal-against-ruling-in-favour-of-worboys-survivors">use the Human Rights Act to gain redress</a>. (Although the most prominent ruling is now being appealed by the Metropolitan Police, with Theresa May’s backing.)</p> <p>The 2015 Conservative Party manifesto contained a pledge to repeal the HRA and replace it with a British Bill of Rights. It was never entirely clear which of the <a href="https://rightsinfo.org/the-rights-in-the-european-convention/">rights contained in the ECHR</a> – such as the right to free speech, to privacy, not to be subject to torture – they wished to curtail, but much of their disdain for the HRA seems to have related to anti-deportation arguments being based on the right to private and family life: Theresa May famously made the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXM7DzeMLe4">untrue</a> statement that an illegal immigrant ‘could not be deported because he had a pet’. The government has also persistently refused to act on a judgment of the European Court of Human Rights stating that the ban on convicted prisoners voting is unlawful. </p> <p>May has been on the wing of the Conservatives that is most extreme in this regard. While still Home Secretary, she expressed her wish to withdraw entirely from the ECHR. This pledge was removed during the 2016 leadership race, but in December 2016 she announced that she would be running in the next general election on a platform of withdrawal. The extremity of this position cannot be over-stated: the only other country that has left the ECHR during peacetime is Greece under a military dictatorship in 1969. </p> <p>Much to the (temporary) relief of human rights organisations, the Conservatives have now announced that such a withdrawal is not part of their 2017 manifesto. In my view, this probably has relatively little to do with realising the value of human rights and more to do with the fact that the Brexit project is likely to be so all-encompassing that an additional project such as the Bill of Rights will be unachievable. </p> <p>In addition to retaining the HRA, the Labour manifesto pledges to build human rights and social justice into trade policy (important in the context of post-Brexit negotiations) and end the sale of weapons to repressive regimes. The Liberal Democrat manifesto likewise pledges to oppose any attempts to repeal the HRA and to strengthen the UK’s commitment to international human rights. </p> <h2><strong>Accountability </strong></h2> <p>The Conservative manifesto states that under their government, British troops would no longer be subject to the European Court of Human Rights and only to the Law of Armed conflict, including humanitarian law. </p> <p>This ignores the complexity of the relationship between human rights and humanitarian law, and wrongly implies that the government can pick and choose which public bodies the Convention applies to. In relation to Northern Ireland, the Conservative manifesto pledges to create ‘new bodies for addressing the legacy of the past in fair, balanced and proportionate ways which do not unfairly focus on former members of the Armed Forces and the Royal Ulster Constabulary’ – without explaining what is seen to be unbalanced about the current focus. </p> <p>During this parliament, the Conservative party has disappointed campaigners by refusing a public inquiry into the 1984 ‘Battle of Orgreave’ during the miners’ strike. Announcing the decision in October 2016, Home Secretary Amber Rudd argued that few lessons could be learned from an incident over 30 years ago – a decision described by the secretary of the Orgreave Truth &amp; Justice campaign as a ‘complete shock and a great disappointment.’ There are apparent <a href="http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/crime/exclusive-the-links-between-south-yorkshire-police-hillsborough-and-orgreave-cover-ups-five-years-apart-1-7890633">parallels</a> between Orgreave and the Hillsborough disaster, both of which involved the same senior officers and lawyer, yet Theresa May has been <a href="http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/hillsborough-families-praise-theresa-mays-11598771">praised</a> for her work in supporting the Hillsborough families. It is therefore arguable that the difference in approach is related to the political context of Orgreave, which directly involved miners on strike against a Conservative government. </p> <p>Conversely, Labour’s manifesto pledges a public inquiry into Orgreave. Similarly, it pledges an inquiry (also previously called for by the Green Party) into the scandal of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/undercover-with-paul-lewis-and-rob-evans/2015/jul/09/blacklisted-the-secret-war-between-big-business-and-union-activists-a-book-review">blacklisting</a> construction workers for their trade union activities, allegedly with the collusion of the secret services and police. </p> <h2><strong>Racism, immigration and the treatment of migrants and refugees </strong></h2> <p>More promisingly, the Conservative manifesto includes proposals to reduce disproportionate use of force against Black, Asian and ethnic minority individuals in detention and to make stop and search more targeted, with changes to be mandated if the ratio of stops to arrests does not improve. </p> <p>These are important proposals, although more comprehensive changes are also needed – the Runnymede Society <a href="https://www.raceequality2017.org.uk/race-equality-plan-for-britain">has called for</a> ‘a root and branch overhaul of the criminal justice system to tackle racial disproportionality,’ which would look at issues such as sentencing as well as stop and search. </p> <p>In addition, under Conservative proposals, large employers will be asked to publish data about pay differentials by race. However, as journalist Ash Sarkar <a href="http://novaramedia.com/2017/05/17/should-we-trust-a-woke-theresa-may-on-race/">has noted,</a> there is already sufficient evidence to show income inequality and decisive action is needed. </p> <p>It is also difficult to square these commitments with the increased racism that results from the creation of a ‘hostile environment’ for migrants, a phrase coined in 2013 during Theresa May’s term as Home Secretary. At the time, legislation was introduced forcing private landlords to check their tenants’ immigration status and introducing a policy to deport those with outstanding immigration appeals first, forcing them to make their appeals from outside the UK. Vans carrying the slogan ‘Go home and face arrest’ were deployed to target undocumented immigrants.</p> <p>Of various aspects of the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/public-leaders-network/2017/may/27/asylum-seekers-silent-scandal-home-office-legal-aid-cuts-refugees?CMP=share_btn_link">poor treatment</a> received by many migrants and refugees / asylum seekers in the UK, perhaps the cruellest aspect is the increasing use of immigration detention: the last year has seen a ten percent increase in the number of people detained under immigration powers for longer than six months, a total of 317 people compared with 287 in the preceding year. </p> <p>The Green party have pledged to completely end immigration detention, starting with the release of the most vulnerable detainees namely women who have survived rape, sexual abuse and torture. Meanwhile, the Labour and Liberal Democrat manifestos both call for a time limit on detention, which already exists in every other EU country and is therefore a modest though crucial demand. On the other hand, the Conservative manifesto says nothing on detention but makes the dystopian pledge of using satellite tracking to follow foreign nationals subject to deportation orders or proceedings – i.e. even those whom courts have not yet decided to deport. </p> <h2><strong>Surveillance and the internet </strong></h2> <p>This Parliament has seen the introduction of the Investigatory Powers Act, which give sweeping access to a range of authorities to individuals’ private information including internet browsing history and has been <a href="https://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/human-rights/privacy/state-surveillance">described</a> by Liberty as ‘the most intrusive surveillance law of any democracy in history.’ </p> <p>In a decision that was incredibly disappointing to members like me who are concerned about Civil Liberties, the Labour Party voted in favour of the Act and did not table major amendments to it. Although the manifesto refers to re-introducing judicial control over the use of investigatory powers, it is not clear whether this refers specifically to the Act. </p> <p>In the run up to the election, and particularly since the horrendous terrorist attack in Manchester on 22 May, the Conservatives have been giving contradictory messages during interviews about whether they wish to ban the end-to-end encryption used in services such as WhatsApp. Such a ban would be problematic in generally making the internet insecure – encryption is used, for example, in banking services. A strong case has not been made to say it would significantly affect terrorists. For example, the Manchester bomber, Mr Abedi, was known to the authorities, who, despite reports from members of the public on five occasions, made a decision that he was not high risk enough to be subject to surveillance. Rather than constantly expand mass surveillance, it would be preferable to focus resources on individuals identified as a threat. </p> <p>A linked issue is that of Prevent. Unlike Mr Abedi, who had expressed views in support of terrorism, many of those referred under the Prevent scheme are considered suspect simply because they hold views which are seen to be at odds with mainstream foreign policy. Most worrying to me are reports of referrals for expressing views about Palestine, with the Prevent training pack <a href="http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/revealed-uk-universities-told-manage-palestinian-activism-1189229788">advising universities to ‘manage’ Palestine activism</a>. Bearing in mind that the government, for example, <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/continuing-israeli-settlement-expansion-in-the-west-bank-is-eroding-the-viability-of-the-two-state-solution">recognises</a> the illegality of settlement building under international law, there is a double standard here – ideas that would be rightly seen to reflect concerns about human rights and social justice in some contexts come to be seen as subversive in others, particularly when expressed by Muslims. </p> <p>In this regard, the commitment in the Labour manifesto to ‘review the Prevent programme with a view to assessing both its effectiveness and its potential to alienate minority communities’ is welcome, even if it has unfortunately been contradicted in a recent interview by Diane Abbott suggesting an expansion of the scheme. </p> <p>The Conservative Party, on the other hand, appear to be strongly defending Prevent by simply focusing on its success stories and those they consider to have benefited from it, while refusing to engage with the issue of inappropriate referrals. Theresa May has also recently indicated the possibility of introducing new criminal offences in a bid to tackle extremism, again without actually defining what extremism means. </p> <p>The Conservative party’s proposals for the internet would also oblige technology companies to support the Prevent strategy. <a href="https://paulbernal.wordpress.com/2017/05/19/a-disturbing-plan-for-control/">This article</a> by academic Paul Bernal explores its implications in detail, but noting that the proposed ‘regulatory framework’ backed up by a ‘sanctions regime to ensure compliance’ appears to amount to the creation of a censorship scheme to clamp down on social media platforms. </p> <h2><strong>Workers’ rights</strong></h2> <p>One of the apparent surprises of this election campaign has been proposals by the Conservatives to support workers’ rights, including the introduction of protections for those working in the ‘gig’ economy. However, the substance of the proposals is quite limited and also needs to be seen in context: the same party introduced <a href="https://www.hja.net/the-trade-union-bill-an-assault-on-freedom-of-expression-and-assembly/">draconian anti-union legislation</a> in the form of the Trade Union Act, and have also been responsible for introducing fees in the Employment Tribunal, making it significantly more difficult for workers to actually enforce the rights they have. Outrageously, when questioned about this discrepancy, Theresa May responded that those with genuine cases ‘would bring them’ regardless of the fees. This assumes that the significant decline in cases since the introduction of fees arises only from non-genuine cases, and ignores the fact that not all workers will have the funds to pay the fees and / or be able to take the risk of losing them. </p> <h2><strong>Access to justice </strong></h2> <p>The introduction of ET fees is part of a broader attack on access to justice that started under New Labour and continued with the Legal Aid, Sentencing &amp; Punishment of Offenders Act introduced by the Coalition government in 2012. This removed whole swathes of areas of law from the scope of legal aid funding (including family disputes except where domestic violence can be proven, benefits, some aspects of housing, debt and benefits, and non-asylum immigration cases) and tightened the already very tight means test for civil legal aid. It has been followed by yet further cuts, including to the funding of judicial reviews, which are important for holding public bodies to account regarding unlawful or irrational decisions. </p> <p>Labour have pledged a number of reversals in their manifesto, including reviewing the means test and re-introducing funding for early advice in family cases and reintroducing funding for the preparation of judicial review cases. As regards the re-instatement of other areas, they pledge to reconsider these after the completion of an ongoing review by Lord Bach. The Liberal Democrats also promise a review of LASPO in their manifesto. </p> <p>Probably like many legal aid lawyers, I see Labour’s proposals as a step in the right direction but as not necessarily going far enough to remedy an area that has been decimated by cuts. Similarly, their proposals on capping court fees, another bar to access to justice which have exponentially increased in the past few years, are welcome but not that concrete, and retain the idea that the court service can use these fees as a way to generate income. &nbsp;</p> <p>The only direct mention of legal aid in the Conservative manifesto is to say that it will not apply to claims against troops. This is a thinly veiled reference to the recent controversy over claims against the armed forces in Iraq, which led to the solicitor Phil Shiner being struck off (barred from further practice) and to ongoing misconduct proceedings against solicitors from Leigh Day. In my view, the idea that wrongdoing in the bringing of certain claims should prevent claims of a similar nature being brought at all in the future is no more logical than saying that because some criminal prosecutions are brought improperly or on unreliable evidence, the state should receive no further funding to prosecute people. In addition, the Conservative proposal to introduce an ‘independent public advocate’ at inquests has been read by some as a possible way of avoiding legal aid for family members at inquests. </p> <h2><strong>Brexit and the Great Repeal Bill</strong></h2> <p>The question of Brexit is obviously a huge one, but one aspect of the Conservative’s plans that causes particular concern for Civil Liberties is the Great Repeal Bill, which would hand unprecedented powers to the executive through ‘Henry VIII’ powers which allow rights to be removed without a parliamentary vote. Unlike the Liberal Democrats and Greens who promise a second referendum, Labour has pledged to implement Brexit but their procedure for doing so does not appear to include such a serious attack on parliamentary sovereignty. In place of the Great Repeal Bill they would implement an EU Rights and Protections Bill, which researcher Sam Fowles <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/brexit-great-repeal-bill-eu-rights-and-protections-bill-you-should-be-worried-a7705286.html">described</a> as a move in the right direction, but needing a more wholehearted defence of rights. </p> <p>As regards EU migrants, I believe it is deeply disappointing that Labour have pledged to end EU free movement, again in contrast to some of the smaller parties. That said, Labour’s pledge to unilaterally guarantee the status of EU migrants in the UK, although complex to administer, is preferable to the Conservative approach which, in effect, treats them as bargaining chips.</p> <h2><strong>Police and prisons </strong></h2> <p>Labour’s manifesto pledges the recruitment of 3,000 prison officers – a move which seems indispensable to deal with the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/lorraine-atkinson/prison-suicide-howard-league-theresa-may">catastrophic situation</a> inside prisons, but which also opens up the question of why Britain is imprisoning so many people that it now has the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/mar/14/england-and-wales-has-highest-imprisonment-rate-in-western-europe">highest imprisonment rate in western Europe</a>. In this regard it is refreshing that Labour’s manifesto refers to prison as a ‘last resort’ and notes that ‘our prisons are too often dumping grounds for people who need treatment more than they need punishment.’ &nbsp;This is promising, and contrasts starkly with the Conservative pledge to create 10,000 more prison places. To make it into action more concrete measures would be needed, in terms of changes to sentencing guidelines and / or decriminalisation of certain offences – as proposed by the Liberal Democrats in relation to cannabis possession and the Green Party on sex work. </p> <p>Likewise, Labour’s plans for an increase in officer numbers to 30,000 have made headlines, particularly in the past week, but <a href="https://www.crimeandjustice.org.uk/publications/assessing-general-election-manifestos">analysis</a> from the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies suggests that the evidence that increased recruitment leads to decreased crime is weak, and cites statistics that 84% of calls to the police relate not to alleged criminal offences but to matters such as concerns about an individual’s wellbeing. In other words, proper resourcing of other public services such as mental health and social work would allow the freeing up of police resources to deal with crime. </p> <h2><strong>Voting reform</strong></h2> <p>Finally, the Conservatives have pledged to limit voter registration to those who can present identification, although the nature of identification is not specified. In my practice, I have come across a number of clients that simply do not have identification such as a driving licence or passport, and it is unrealistic to expect that all will pay and go through a procedure to obtain it. This is in some ways the most worrying proposal of all, since it would be predicted to disenfranchise 7.5 per cent of the electorate, around 3.5 million people, thus impacting on future election outcomes. </p> <p>Human rights are, of course, not the only concerns in this election – the economy, the NHS, social care, housing and education among others are of huge importance. But human rights <em>are </em>important for everyone, because, for example, without the right to protest against particular policies it is much more difficult to influence and hold to account whichever government is elected on 8 June, and without access to justice it is difficult to challenge their worst impacts. </p> <p>While there are proposals in the Labour manifesto which I would like to see changed significantly, I believe that a further conservative government is almost certain to be much more damaging for human rights with the ongoing creation of a hostile environment for migrants, a burgeoning prison population, a lack of access to justice, sweeping executive powers and a curtailment of voting rights.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK openJustice Natalie Sedacca Mon, 29 May 2017 21:02:15 +0000 Natalie Sedacca 111242 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The quiet revolution that could transform lives https://www.opendemocracy.net/openjustice/rachael-mpashi-marx/quiet-revolution-that-could-transform-lives <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="normal">Most people can't afford a transcript from their own trial even when it's the only thing that could prove their innocence. We need to move beyond the status quo.</p><p class="normal"><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="normal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/Locked_up_(8560043435).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/Locked_up_(8560043435).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Overturning wrongful convictions can rely on efficient and affordable court transcription services. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Ivan Bandura. Some rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p class="normal">For many people, campaigning to change the legal system conjures up images of high profile cases in the Supreme Court and photo opportunities on the steps of the Court of Appeal. Such public moments are important achievements for activists trying to bring about change in the way the law operates. However, they are not the only place where revolutions can happen.</p> <p class="normal">Behind the scenes there are a whole range of processes and procedures that unobtrusively take place every day which, if left unchecked and unchanged, allow inequalities to persist.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The transcription company quoted her £6,000 for the transcript. In the time it took her to scrape together the money, the original recording was destroyed.&nbsp;</p> <h2>Embracing change across the system</h2> <p class="normal">The legal profession generally is beginning to understand the role new technology can have in eliminating inefficiencies. Lawyers are increasingly comfortable with e-discovery&nbsp;<span>–</span>&nbsp;the process of identifying electronic evidence for a case, and document automation&nbsp;<span>–</span>&nbsp;in which a smart piece of software automatically populates forms from information provided by clients.</p> <p class="normal">And there is much excitement about the potential of online courts. It is easy to understand why. They have the potential to streamline certain simple cases, freeing up time and resources, and offering a more efficient experience. However, lost in the excitement are the many, far more easily achievable changes that can be made to the processes and systems that deliver the administration of justice. Updating these does not rely on the computer literacy of vulnerable individuals, or the irreversible selling off of valuable assets, such as court buildings.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">By taking care of seemingly mundane, administrative tasks, services can free up the experts’ time to focus on the things that really need their attention. This is something that has yet to be embraced so enthusiastically by the judiciary and the court system.</p> <p class="normal">Take the production of court transcriptions. Not something that anyone, not even most lawyers, gives much thought to. And yet, it presents an incredible opportunity for behind-the-scenes change that has the potential to profoundly improve the justice system.</p> <p class="normal">In my work at the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.criminalappeals.org.uk/" target="_blank">Centre for Criminal Appeals</a>&nbsp;we saw many clients for whom the transcript of the court hearing was a pivotal document. Mark (not his real name) was just 17 when he was convicted of joint enterprise murder. He is legally blind, and played no role in the fatal attack by two of his acquaintances that led to his conviction. His mother immediately began to fight for an appeal. She struggled to find a lawyer to take the case on. In the process, the original solicitors lost Mark’s case file. The transcript became the only potential record of what had happened in his case. The transcription company quoted her £6,000 for the transcript. In the time it took her to scrape together the money, the original recording was destroyed.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">A client serving 34 years for attempted murder was quoted £20,000 for the trial transcript.</p> <h2>Understanding the status quo</h2> <p class="normal">Currently, the Ministry of Justice contracts with private providers of transcription once every few years. The resulting service is relatively and inconsistently expensive and inefficient and too often results in poor quality transcripts with gaps and inaccuracies. The process has changed very little over the years. It still involves hard copy request forms and CDs being couriered around the country to teams of typists who laboriously hand type everything.</p> <p class="normal">The intellectual property for the transcripts sits with the private providers, as do the recordings. Many of these audio files languish in disparate storage units gathering dust until they are destroyed seven years later.</p> <p class="normal">Transcripts in this country can cost thousands of pounds to access. A client of the Centre for Criminal Appeals serving 34 years for attempted murder was quoted £20,000 for the trial transcript. There is little barrier to accessing them for those who have money - commercial clients regularly pay for their own stenographer to come to court and create a daily record of proceedings for them. Legal publishers commission transcripts of the judge’s summing up in major cases for their document libraries. These are available to those who can pay for a subscription.</p> <p class="normal">And yet, these arrangements preclude most normal people from being able to access the transcript of their own court hearing, even where it is an essential document for their case.</p> <p class="normal">As a result of seeing the impact of these arrangements, I teamed up with a lawyer and a developer to create a more efficient, more cost effective alternative which takes advantage of recent advances in technology. <a href="http://www.just-transcription.com" target="_blank">Just: Transcription</a> is speech-to-text tool that automates the creation of court transcripts and spoken legal advice records to promote more equal access. We bid during the most recent Ministry of Justice procurement rounds for one of the new transcript contracts. The process presented no real opportunity for change to the status quo, and as a result, the contracts have all been awarded to the same small group of private for-profit companies and the inequality of access continues.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Understanding the patterns and trends that would emerge were such rich qualitative data managed coherently would offer incredible and unprecedented insight into what is happening inside courts.</p> <h2>Considering the opportunity cost</h2> <p class="normal">One of the most striking aspects of this situation, however, is not just that barriers to accessing court documents are adding to delays and expense to the public purse. There is a huge opportunity cost in not having better systems in place for capturing and analysing the information that is held within and among these transcripts. Understanding the patterns and trends that would emerge were such rich qualitative data managed coherently would offer incredible and unprecedented insight into what is happening inside courts. There is little doubt that if the Ministry of Justice had this level of awareness about what is going on, it would have a wealth of evidence-based new ideas about improvements that could be made.</p> <p class="normal">For an institution on the scale of the justice system, achieving these kinds of changes requires a certain degree of culture change. Outside the system itself, however, there are many individuals and organisations with the skills and experience necessary to support this, and a real willingness to help. Much of the technology that would be required already exists, and has been proven in other settings. Together, such change is well within reach.</p> <p class="normal">It is easy to be attracted by the big ideas. The exciting, high profile initiatives, like online courts, no doubt have a role to play. And yet chances are being lost to improve the way the justice system administers itself. This is not a matter of mere bureaucracy. What is at stake are the fundamental principles of our world-renowned legal system - its fairness and equality. Technology is irrefutably part of the justice of the future - now is the time to seize all the opportunities it offers, and make them work for everyone.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/katherine-sirrell/what-would-true-court-modernisation-look-like">What would true court modernisation look like?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openjustice/roger-smith/can-technology-save-access-to-justice">Can technology save access to justice?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> openJustice digitaLiberties uk openJustice Justice for the rich alone? (openJustice) Rachael Mpashi-Marx Wed, 24 May 2017 14:34:48 +0000 Rachael Mpashi-Marx 110945 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What would true court modernisation look like? https://www.opendemocracy.net/katherine-sirrell/what-would-true-court-modernisation-look-like <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Plans to modernise the courts in England and Wales may change how the justice system looks and feels, but it may not provide the forward thinking justice really needs.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/case-law-677940.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/case-law-677940.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>There are important questions around fairness in our justice system not covered by current modernisation proposals. Photo: AJEL/Pixabay. Some rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p>The efficiency of our courts is crucial for delivering an open, reliable and fair justice system. The government’s court modernisation proposal&nbsp;<span>– </span>as set out in their consultation paper <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/transforming-our-justice-system-joint-statement" target="_blank">Transforming our Justice System</a>&nbsp;<span>–&nbsp;</span>is broadly a plan to speed up proceedings and go digital. And they are planning to invest £1 billion in the entire process. But are the proposals ultimately one of form rather than of substance?</p> <p>Speeding up court processes and improving accessibility for users must be encouraged. In the last few years, digital case papers and iPads have been introduced to the Crown Court and magistrate’s bench respectively. The move has been successful, helping the efficient use of court time. And we already have single justices dealing with traffic offences online, freeing up court time when a guilty plea is lodged. Arguably, civil courts lag behind the digitalisation process that has already begun elsewhere.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Without manpower...court officers and professionals are literally left shouting at an empty room through a screen.</p> <p>Advanced court technologies will allow victims, Claimants and witnesses in criminal and civil matters to give evidence remotely and avoid the trauma of a live hearing. There have already been successful pilot programmes at the Crown Court in Liverpool, Leeds and Kingston-upon-Thames that allow victims and witnesses to pre-record their cross-examinations. </p> <p>There are however legitimate concerns that the digital systems will not provide the kind of utopian future the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) suggest. </p> <p>Technology moves quickly, public bodies do not. Although certainly not an argument for avoiding digitalisation altogether, we should be mindful that the technology being used and trialled may already be out of date, and is by no means a golden ticket in terms of solving inefficiency concerns. </p> <p>As with all technology, the court systems will only be as good as their users. I have sat with a witness giving evidence via video link, and have tried to take client instructions over video link. Unfortunately, both have been disastrous. I am told by a colleague who recently tried to take instructions from a client in police cells via video link that there is no timetable or arrangement managing the call. It effectively involves shouting at a video screen which is being broadcast into an empty room, waiting for a passing officer to hear you, enter the room, and note your request to talk to a prisoner. The idea that this is somehow more dignified, advanced or effective than what is already happening is an illusion. Without the manpower, or possibly the willpower there, court officers and professionals are literally left shouting at an empty room through a screen.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Justice delayed is justice denied, but justice sped up is not necessarily justice delivered.</p> <p>Efficiency is also clearly not just about reaching a result faster. It is also about ensuring all relevant evidence has been made available, all representations have been made, and that considerations of these can take place while the issues are still fresh. Justice delayed is justice denied, but justice sped up is not necessarily justice delivered. </p> <p>This is not to say that technological advances are to be ignored, or avoided. But we shouldn’t forget that the system is run by people, not technology. If there are problems already in existence, for example police staffing levels, they will continue to exist and impact on efficacy. </p> <p>Arguably the courts in England and Wales have for a long time been struggling with underinvestment, a low public opinion of the system and more recently political attacks on our judiciary. Perhaps we should be less worried about the form in which justice is delivered, and instead concerned with the substance of the decisions and participants involved. Are there not bigger issues that need addressing to ensure justice for all?</p> <p>There are many important questions about fairness that are not addressed by the proposals. How will the system ensure that the most vulnerable in society obtain access to the internet (which, according to the <a href="https://www.ons.gov.uk/businessindustryandtrade/itandinternetindustry/bulletins/internetusers/2016" target="_blank">Office of National Statistics</a>, they currently do not have)? What steps are being taken <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/openjustice/charlotte-threipland/judicial-diversity-is-constitutional-issue" target="_blank">to ensure our judiciary is sufficiently representative of those who come before it</a>? Is it right that we as a society discourage victims of accidents from making claims for their injuries? Is access to justice meaningful in light of massive cuts to legal aid? What impact on justice does the media’s attitudes to the penal system and sentencing have? Should we be looking at alternatives to custody similar to those being developed by our European cousins? The list goes on.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Our justice system is not simply a collection of court buildings, of hardware and software and of procedures. More truly, it is about the people it is there to serve.</p> <p>If we do not confront these issues, we risk having a more technologically advanced court system that is failing to deliver substantive justice. We also risk distrust in those making the decisions and people lacking the ability to move on with their lives after they have moved through the system. Our justice system is not simply a collection of court buildings, of hardware and software and of procedures. More truly, it is about the people it is there to serve. </p> <p>The spirit of the law and justice system must be modern, reflective of our society and forward thinking while being transparent and clearly rooted in our history and case law. This must not just come from Whitehall - in fact it is imperative it does not. Anyone with an interest in access to justice – court users, the legal profession, the judiciary – should be involved in this modernisation. I am heartened that Lord Justice Fulford, the senior judge leading the modernisation process, is adamant that the judiciary should have a role in the discussion surrounding the process of modernisation, and that many other court users including the Crown Prosecution Servie (CPS), police and local authorities are participating in the process.&nbsp; </p> <p>At the heart of our justice system are the judiciary, the legal professionals, the court users, the Claimants and the Defendants, the victims and the accused and the officers of the court. The tools and processes available to those involved in the system should be more efficient in order to assist them in <em>the delivery of </em>justice. But the spirit and the form that justice takes, and even perhaps the reporting of the decisions, should equally be under the microscope for reform. The hope is that digitalisation is just one of many steps towards true “modernisation”.</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> openJustice uk openJustice Make your voice heard (openJustice) Katherine Sirrell Mon, 15 May 2017 15:11:41 +0000 Katherine Sirrell 110901 at https://www.opendemocracy.net We don't need more police, we need a shift of responsibilities https://www.opendemocracy.net/openjustice/will-mcmahon/we-dont-need-more-police-we-need-shift-of-responsibilities <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As services were withdrawn from vulnerable people, the police occupied the gap. Election campaigns should concentrate not on the police budget, but on rebalancing responsibilities.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/Day_214_-_West_Midlands_Police_-_101_non-emergency_number_(9420640699).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/Day_214_-_West_Midlands_Police_-_101_non-emergency_number_(9420640699).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Non-crime incidents account for 84% of all incoming calls to command and control centres. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/West Midlands Police from West Midlands. Some rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p>Police numbers and funding have emerged as a general election issue this week thanks largely to a clumsy and muddled radio interview from shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott. Last week, Labour pledged to put 10,000 more "police on the streets" with Jeremy Corbyn emphasising the need for "uniformed officers being visible, local and accessible". In media interviews, Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, defended cuts to police numbers and insisted "a Conservative budget will put security first and what we’ve seen in recent years is a protected police budget".</p> <p>After a period of unprecedented growth, the recent fall in police numbers since 2010 still leaves workforce numbers at historically high levels. Yet, police forces across the country report they are stretched to the limit by public demand. In 2015 the Police Federation launched the #CutsHaveConsequences campaign, highlighting what they called "extreme cuts" to police numbers. Speaking to the Police Federation annual conference in 2015, and defending police budget cuts, Theresa May said:</p><p><em>"Police officers are not social workers, they are not mental health nurses, or paramedics. And I stand by the sentiment. It is not good enough for police custody to be used as an overspill facility for A&amp;E - or for secure children’s homes to use the police to control the children in their care…the right place for a person suffering a mental health crisis is a bed, not a police cell. And the right people to look after them are medically trained professionals, not police officers"</em></p><p>The police are too often called into situations that could better be dealt with by other professions. The College of Policing report, <em><a href="http://www.college.police.uk/News/College-news/Documents/Demand%20Report%2023_1_15_noBleed.pdf" target="_blank">Estimating demand on the police service</a></em>&nbsp;states that ‘non-crime’ incidents account for 84% of all incoming calls to command and control centres. This is a staggering figure - more than eight out of ten calls are for matters that should not be core business for the police.</p> <p>In 2012/2013, there were 19.6 million non-crime incidents recorded by the police. About 60% required action by officers, beyond resolving the issue during the phone call, either by way of an emergency or priority response (40%) or a scheduled visit (20%).</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Many of those who once would have been placed in psychiatric institutions are now to be found in prison.</p> <p>Much of this demand is related to issues of Public Safety and Welfare (PSW), with a significant proportion, up to a third, relating to mental health issues. Many of these PSW issues can be complex and resource intensive to resolve. They are likely to relate to vulnerable populations, missing persons, suicides and child protection. In other words, the police are focused on what is really the core business of social work and mental health professionals, with a reported growing emphasis on mental health in the last few years. Indeed, just last month, Sir Thomas Winsor, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary said</p> <p class="blockquote-new">“The police are considered to be the service of last resort. In some areas, particularly where people with mental health problems need urgent help, the police are increasingly being used as the service of first resort. This is wrong.”</p> <p>This generational evolution of policing activity to overwhelmingly non-crime-related business can be attributed to a number of factors. </p> <p>First, the&nbsp;NHS and Community Care Act 1990&nbsp;led to the de-institutionalisation of people with long-term mental health problems and a shift to care in the community. Without adequate community support and funding, this has led to the police becoming increasingly called upon to deal with people in mental health crisis. One outcome has been that many of those who once would have been placed in psychiatric institutions are now to be found in prison.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">As services were withdrawn from vulnerable people, the police occupied the gap.</p> <p>Second, there was the introduction of neighbourhood policing teams and Police Community Support Officers. This soft-edged policing embedded the police in the terrain of informal local state responses to anti-social behaviour and low level social problems. Ward policing has, in effect, made officers easier to access for the resolution of low level problems than any other arm of national or local government. This has been reinforced by the presence of police in schools.</p> <p>Third, the promise of localism was undermined by cuts to local authority budgets of 35 per cent since 2010. The result was the withdrawal of the local state from social and welfare provision of various sorts – meals on wheels, youth service provision, social care, to the management of housing. As services were withdrawn from vulnerable people, the police occupied the gap, buoyed by historically high workforce numbers, drawing them further into the areas of social work.</p> <p>Each of these factors have contributed to the police being considered by the public as the first port of call to respond to a wide range of problems not related to law-breaking at all.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">An overall shift in government budgets away from policing and towards the training and employment of social work and mental health professionals.</p> <p>Over the past generation the public have been educated to call the police to address a wide range of social problems. The retraction of local state services has led to an increasing reliance on the police. For a shift in resources from front line police staff to front line social work and mental health staff to be a success, a change in public culture from ringing 999 for a first response, to contacting other more appropriate services, will be necessary.</p> <p>The resourcing of mental health workers and social workers to manage demand presently met by police officers should be a high priority. This would necessarily mean an overall shift in government budgets away from policing and towards the training and employment of social work and mental health professionals. This approach could lead to a radically downsized and less publicly visible police force, shorn of its social work responsibilities and instead, focusing on the estimated 16% of incoming calls to command and control centres that are actually about law-breaking.</p> <p>It may well be the case that communities need visible, local and accessible services and support workers. It is unlikely that in most cases these workers need to be uniformed police officers.&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> openJustice uk openJustice Will McMahon Tue, 09 May 2017 14:41:31 +0000 Will McMahon 110735 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How to make the roads safer https://www.opendemocracy.net/https%3A/%252Fopendemocracy.net/openjustice/road-safety-london-uk <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As the number of UK cyclists soar, so do death and injury on the roads. These are two simple rules that would reduce accidents and simplify a victim's claim.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/cyclist.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/cyclist.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A motorist emerging into the path of a cyclist or a motorist turning across the path of a cyclist remain the most common causes of cycling collisions. Photo: Flikr/Lars Plougmann. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>With more and more people taking to the roads and cycling, whether for fitness, sport or getting from A to Z, there has never been more attention on the Highway Code and how it protects vulnerable road users in terms of rights of way at junctions.</p> <p>The reason for concentrating on junctions is because a motorist emerging into the path of a cyclist or a motorist turning across the path of a cyclist remains the most common cause of cycling collisions according to the <a href="http://www.rospa.com/road-safety/advice/pedal-cyclists/facts-figures/." target="_blank">latest statistics</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>As lawyers dealing with hundreds of cases of road collisions involving cyclists and vehicles we can testify that a large proportion of these are caused by motorists either turning across a cyclist’s path or pulling out of a side road into a cyclist’s path.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The Turning the Corner campaign suggests scrapping the 14 different rules in the Highway Code and requiring motorists to adhere to just one rule.</p> <h2><strong>The Highway Code and “Turning the Corner”</strong></h2> <p>Earlier this year British Cycling launched their ‘Turning the Corner’ campaign due to what they saw as a lack of coherent guidance in the Highway Code relating to junctions. They identified 14 different rules in the Highway Code that deal with junctions which they claimed led to confusion over who has right of way in certain scenarios.&nbsp;</p> <p>The Turning the Corner campaign suggests scrapping the 14 different rules in the Highway Code and requiring motorists to adhere to just one rule, which is a “universal duty to give way.”</p> <p>Martin Key, Campaigns Manager at British Cycling, says that this means that motorists must stop and check before they turn at a junction. The rule would apply everywhere.</p> <p>It massively simplifies the onus on the motorist and makes it clear what is expected of them at any junction. All they would be required to remember is to stop and check before carrying out their turn.</p> <p>The campaign has received endorsement from the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group in their <a href="https://allpartycycling.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/appcg-justice-report-2017.pdf" target="_blank">“Cycling and the Justice System” report</a> published this month. The report made 14 proposals designed to better protect cyclists and these included revising the Highway Code with regards to giving way to cyclists at side road crossings and specifically referenced the Turning the Corner campaign.&nbsp;</p> <p>The advice is supported by the <a href="http://www.rospa.com/road-safety/advice/pedal-cyclists/facts-figures/" target="_blank">latest statistics from ROSPA</a>, statistics which found the most common key contributory factor in road traffic collisions involving motorists and cyclists recorded by the police is “failed to look properly.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Presumed liability is a fairer system as it shifts the burden of proof from the more vulnerable party, an injured individual, onto the more powerful party to such claims, the insurer.</p> <h2><strong>Presumed Liability</strong></h2> <p>We believe that presumed liability, which is practiced in many European countries, would also make the roads safer for all road users by protecting the most vulnerable road users.&nbsp;</p> <p>Where presumed liability is the law, it is presumed when a collision occurs that the larger vehicle is held liable for the incident unless it can be demonstrated that the more vulnerable party was at fault.</p> <p>In a collision between a motorist and a cyclist, it will be presumed that the motorist was liable for the collision unless they can prove otherwise. Similarly, in a collision between a cyclist and a pedestrian, the cyclist would be presumed to be liable unless they could prove otherwise. </p> <p>The aim of the system is to develop a hierarchy on the roads based on mutual respect between all road users. It promotes careful road use where people look out for each other, which would surely be a very positive step on today’s busy roads and especially in and around junctions.</p> <p>Presumed liability is a fairer system as it shifts the burden of proof from the more vulnerable party, an injured individual, onto the more powerful party to such claims, the insurer.</p> <p>There are wide ranging benefits to the scheme but the most important is that claims should progress faster meaning that the injured party receives compensation quicker. This can then be used to obtain the treatment is required to maximise their recovery.</p> <p>Under the current system, establishing liability can be a difficult and time-consuming process meaning that unless the injured party has the money readily available to fund treatment, the opportunity for early rehabilitation can be lost.</p> <p>A common misconception is that presumed liability equates to strict liability, where liability cannot be disputed. This is not the case. If it can be shown that the injured party was at fault for the incident and was the “author of their own misfortune”, they would not receive compensation. It is not a case that the injured party will always receive compensation.</p> <p>The reversal of the burden of proof is unlikely to lead to many more cases being successful than is currently the case. If an insurer has a good case as to why they should not have to pay compensation, they can still defend a claim and they can still “win” the claim. </p> <p>The reversal of the burden would however give an insurer an incentive to give more careful consideration to those cases that they decide to defend, leading to quicker and less stressful resolution of the claim for the injured party.</p> <p>In terms of litigation costs, swifter resolution would also lead to lower legal costs being incurred as the costs of investigating liability would be significantly reduced except in cases where the insurer decided to defend the claim.</p> <p>This would therefore reduce the costs to insurers and, hopefully, in turn reduce the insurance premiums payable by the road users.</p> <p>The key message here is what we should be looking to achieve. Safer roads and, when incidents do occur, swifter access to compensation to get the injured party the rehabilitation they need as quickly as possible. Based on our European counterparts, presumed liability may be the way towards this.</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> openJustice uk openJustice Make your voice heard (openJustice) Jane Bedford McLaren and William Broadbent Mon, 08 May 2017 15:06:13 +0000 Jane Bedford McLaren and William Broadbent 110701 at https://www.opendemocracy.net It's about time our judiciary started to reflect the people it serves https://www.opendemocracy.net/openjustice/charlotte-threipland/judicial-diversity-is-constitutional-issue <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A senior judiciary that so clearly fails to reflect the ethnic,&nbsp;gender and social composition of the nation seriously undermines justice in England and Wales.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/PA-7876178.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/PA-7876178.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="346" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The 12 Justices of the Supreme Court of England and Wales. Lady Hale is the only woman ever to have been appointed to the Court. Photo credit: Fiona Hanson/Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p>Imagine this: A senior judiciary of 12 that, in its entire history, has only ever had one woman and where each member is and always has been, white and privileged. A description of Victorian-era justice? No, this describes the judiciary of the Supreme Court in England and Wales in 2017.&nbsp;</p> <p>The all–party law reform and human rights organisation, <a href="https://justice.org.uk/about-us/" target="_blank">JUSTICE</a>, this week published <a href="https://2bquk8cdew6192tsu41lay8t-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/JUSTICE-Increasing-judicial-diversity-report-2017-web.pdf" target="_blank">an important report</a> on why we must take proactive and immediate steps to increase the diversity of the senior judiciary in England and Wales, and how we might do it.</p> <p>An elitist and homogeneous Supreme Court is not only unacceptable in 2017, but reflects deeper flaws in our justice system and in our constitution.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The quality, fairness and legitimacy of judgments is negatively affected by a lack of diversity.</p><p>Why does it matter if the majority of people who come before the courts differ in gender, ethnicity and background from the people administering justice? Informed and inspired by the JUSTICE report, here are some of the reasons why the quality, fairness and legitimacy of judgments is negatively affected by a lack of diversity, and why this undermines justice.</p> <p>Firstly, bias. Affinity bias (preferring people similar to ourselves) is a deep-rooted human response well recognised by behavioural sciences. Good judges will pride themselves on objectivity, but they are only human. Bias will creep into judgments - obviously reducing their fairness and therefore their quality. A more diverse judiciary would self-correct unconscious (or conscious) bias.&nbsp;</p> <p>Secondly, a homogeneous panel of judges will likely have a narrower set of life experiences and less variety of thought. As Nathalie Lieven QC (author of the JUSTICE report) points out that outcomes are not purely determined by personal characteristics but, like any human, a judge’s thought processes are bound to be reflected by his (or her?) experiences. Appointing a more diverse judiciary would increase the breadth of thought and understanding in the justice system. As Benjamin Cardozo, former US Supreme Court Justice explained:</p> <p class="blockquote-new">“The eccentricities of judges balance one another. One judge looks at problems from the point of view of history, another from that of philosophy, another from that of social utility; one is a formalist, another a latitudinarian, one is timorous of change, another dissatisfied with the present; out of the attrition of diverse minds there is beaten something which has a constancy and uniformity and average value greater than its component elements.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Thirdly, a senior judiciary that so obviously does not reflect the makeup of the nation erodes public confidence in the courts. This is a legal, social and constitutional matter. Legally, if a potential court user does not have faith in the process, it's reasonable to expect that they will be less likely to bring a claim or come forward as a witness in a case, negatively affecting the administration of justice. In terms of life aspirations, a normal person is also likely to feel that the law, and almost certainly the judiciary, is a sector that is completely unavailable to them in terms of ambition or career choice.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">A limited pool of judges must mean that we simply aren’t making use of the available pool of talent.&nbsp;</p> <p>Lack of diversity in the Supreme Court may also contribute to problems on a social and constitutional level. People who are unable to relate to figureheads in the justice system (and of course those at the senior levels in other areas like politics and business, where there are also diversity problems) are less likely to feel heard and represented. They may be <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/openjustice/tunde-okewale/do-fewer-lawyers-and-judges-of-colour-mean-more-prisoners-of-colour" target="_blank">less willing to engage or participate in society or in the democratic process</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>Fourthly, a limited pool of judges must mean that we simply aren’t making use of the available pool of talent. As Lord Neuberger asked: </p><p class="blockquote-new">“why are 80 per cent or 90 per cent of judges male? It suggests, purely on a statistical basis, that we do not have the best people because there must be some women out there who are better than the less good men who are judges”. </p><p><span class="image-left">Ob</span>viously, the same reasoning applies to Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic&nbsp;(BAME) people.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Diversity must be sought in and of itself.&nbsp;</p> <p>Finally, we must remember that judges, particular senior ones, are very powerful. They not only determine the fate of individual lives, they implement and create the law. A homogeneous senior judiciary exacerbates the much wider problem that the ruling class in the UK still does not represent the people they serve.</p> <p>JUSTICE makes a number of recommendations to overhaul judicial recruitment, placing diversity at its core. A key part of their recommendation is that the potential pool of judges must be extended from almost exclusively Queen’s Council barristers (of which only 14% are women and 6% are BAME) to sectors not traditionally considered like partners at solicitor’s firms. They cite the importance of setting targets (rather than quotas) and implementing processes that ensure transparency and accountability.</p> <p>The spirit of the report is that diversity must be sought in and of itself. When you look at the huge ramifications that a lack of diversity most likely has on justice and our constitution, it's difficult to disagree.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openjustice/tunde-okewale/do-fewer-lawyers-and-judges-of-colour-mean-more-prisoners-of-colour">Do fewer lawyers and judges of colour mean more prisoners of colour?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/samir-jeraj-heather-mcrobie/diversity-in-british-judiciary-on-backburner-for-too-long">Diversity in the British judiciary: on the backburner for too long</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> openJustice uk openJustice Justice for the rich alone? (openJustice) Charlotte Threipland Wed, 26 Apr 2017 14:43:45 +0000 Charlotte Threipland 110429 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Draconian cuts to legal aid for prisoners found to be unlawful by Court of Appeal https://www.opendemocracy.net/openjustice/laura-janes/draconian-cuts-to-legal-aid-for-prisoners-found-to-be-unlawful-by-court-of-a <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A rare thing: some good news for prisoners and legal aid.&nbsp;<em></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/Prisoner-leaving-Portland-met-by-family-Unlimited-use-until-1-July-2016-PrisonImage-1024x683.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/Prisoner-leaving-Portland-met-by-family-Unlimited-use-until-1-July-2016-PrisonImage-1024x683.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Court of Appeal decision should mean that some prisoners will have assistance in navigating the stepping stones towards rehabilitation and, if they are deemed ready, release. Photo: with kind permission from Andy Aitchison. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Since cuts to legal aid for prisoners came into force in December 2013, violence and self-injury in prisons have risen to record levels. Almost 300 people have lost their lives through suicide. But on 10 April 2017, the Court of Appeal, <a href="https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/judgments/r-howard-league-for-penal-reform-and-the-prisoners-advice-service-v-the-lord-chancellor/" target="_blank">in its judgment</a> on a legal challenge to the cuts, ruled that cuts to legal aid for prisoners are unlawful because they are inherently unfair. </p> <p>The ruling was the result of a three-year legal battle by the Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prisoners’ Advice Service (PAS).</p> <p>The charities took the exceptional step of bringing the case in their own name, putting their front line work at risk, because of the grave consequences for prisoners' progression towards safe and meaningful lives posed by the cuts to areas of law that involve complex decision-making.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The case proceeded on the basis that the prison population is overcrowded and contains very vulnerable individuals</p> <p>As the judgment notes, prison is not just about punishment, but also the protection of the public, and rehabilitation. The charities' case proceeded on the basis that the prison population is overcrowded and contains very vulnerable individuals: In the words of the Court, "<em>it includes the mentally unwell, those with learning or other disabilities, the illiterate, those who do not or hardly speak English, and young people</em>."</p> <p>Although the charities managed to secure a protected costs order to limit the financial risk of bringing the litigation, as the case wound its way through the courts, the combined impact of the cuts and the deterioration in prison conditions took its toll on the workload of the charities. A crowdfunding initiative was launched to support the case.</p> <p>Since the case was launched in 2013, both charities have seen requests for legal help rise by over 50 per cent. In the same period, prison conditions have plummeted to unacceptable levels. This deterioration has been compounded by inadequate staffing.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">As a result of the judgment and concessions along the way, 85% of the areas where we challenged the removal of legal aid by Chris Grayling have either been restored or deemed unlawful.</p> <p>Lord Justice Beatson, giving judgment, said: <em>“[A]t a time when… the evidence about prison staffing levels, the current state of prisons, and the workload of the Parole Board suggests that the system is under considerable pressure, the system has at present not got the capacity sufficiently to fill the gap in the run of cases in… three areas</em>.”</p> <p>The first area he refers to concerns the status of Category A prisoners – prisoners who are deemed to pose such a risk of serious harm should they escape from prison that they are held in the highest category of security. Such prisoners will be unable to progress towards release until they are first considered suitable for a less secure prison.&nbsp;The process for deciding this is difficult and complex and involves the right of the prisoner to make representations.&nbsp;The court found that the absence of legal aid for this process rendered it unfair and unlawful.&nbsp;</p> <p>The second area concerns the placement of prisoners held in specialist units called Close Supervision Centres.&nbsp;As the name suggests, these units are like prisons within a prison.&nbsp;Some of the most disturbed prisoners tend to be placed in these units. As with the Category A cases, the legal process surrounding it is complex and the chances of meaningful rehabilitation from within these units remote. The court also found the removal of legal aid for these cases was unfair.&nbsp;</p> <p>The third area that the Court found to be unlawful concerned the removal of legal aid for pre-tariff parole reviews. These are cases where a prisoner is serving a life or indeterminate sentence, like the notorious <a href="http://thejusticegap.com/2012/03/whats-an-ipp-sentence/" target="_blank">IPP sentence</a>, and is eligible for a move to an open prison but not release. This is a crucial stepping stone in the journey towards safety as once in an open jail, prisoners can be allowed out into the community for the first time.&nbsp;Most lifers are, understandably, expected to be tested in open conditions before they are released for good.&nbsp;Again, the court found the removal of legal aid for these prisoners was unlawful.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">If the executive encroaches on peoples' rights to the extent that it causes systemic unfairness, the courts will strike that down. That is a huge victory for justice.</p> <p>The ruling is an important victory for a number of reasons.</p> <p>First, we won. The decision to remove from legal aid from three important areas of law that affect the efficient and safe progression of prisoners through the system towards a safe and useful life has been ruled unlawful.&nbsp; </p> <p>Second, we secured massive concessions along the way.&nbsp;Before the Court of Appeal had even heard the case, the Lord Chancellor had conceded that certain areas of law that had been removed from legal aid such as help with decisions about mother and baby units, support for ensuring a suitable release plan and challenging segregation should fall under an exceptional funding scheme so people could at least apply for legal aid.&nbsp;As a result of the judgment and the concessions along the way, 85% of the areas where we challenged the removal of legal aid by Chris Grayling have either been restored or deemed unlawful.</p> <p>Third, the Court of Appeal’s judgment shows that if the executive encroaches on peoples' rights to the extent that it causes systemic unfairness, the courts will strike that down. That is a huge victory for justice.</p> <p>&nbsp;It is still too early to know what will happen as a result of the judgment.&nbsp;The Government might try and appeal the decision.&nbsp;If the Government does not appeal, legal aid will still only be available if the current law is amended.</p> <p>The case was brought by the <a href="http://howardleague.org/" target="_blank">Howard League for Penal Reform</a> and the <a href="http://www.prisonersadvice.org.uk/" target="_blank">Prisoners’ Advice Service</a>.&nbsp;The two charities provide specialist legal advice and assistance to prisoners. The Howard League's legal team works with young people under the age of 21 in prison. PAS works‎ with prisoners aged 21 and over. The charities were represented by Simon Creighton of Bhatt Murphy solicitors, Phillippa Kaufmann QC of Matrix Chambers and Alex Gask of Doughty Street Chambers.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openjustice/eric-allison/dark-corners-of-our-justice-system">The dark corners of our justice system</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openjustice/emily-bolton/our-criminal-justice-system-is-not-merely-failing-to-learn-from-its-mistake">Our criminal justice system is hiding its mistakes</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openjustice/dr-david-scott/it-is-prisons-themselves-not-prisoners-that-are-to-blame-for-record-numbe">It is the prisons, not the prisoners, that are to blame for record number of deaths</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openjustice/prisons-places-of-harm-and-dehabilitation">Prisons: places of harm and dehabilitation</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> openJustice uk openJustice Justice for the rich alone? (openJustice) Laura Janes Wed, 26 Apr 2017 11:09:23 +0000 Laura Janes 110387 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Do fewer lawyers and judges of colour mean more prisoners of colour? https://www.opendemocracy.net/openjustice/tunde-okewale/do-fewer-lawyers-and-judges-of-colour-mean-more-prisoners-of-colour <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>When professionals within the criminal justice system cannot relate to the ordinary people that come before them, justice cannot be done.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555700/IMG_8869_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="230" height="346" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>In a profession built upon tradition and custom it is difficult to achieve the changes needed to diversify the legal system. Photo: Tunde Okewale.</span></span></span></p><p>Most of the people I grew up with are either dead or in prison. I was very fortunate, I grew up in a strict African family and my parents decided that I would become either a lawyer or a doctor. Personally, I had ambitions to become an athlete. My parents were strict but very supportive. Having someone supportive that pushes and helps you makes the difference between a life of crime and the life of a lawyer. Researchers Tucker and Presley, amongst others, found that positive expectations held by teachers and parents had an impact on whether or not students became successful.</p> <p>Unfortunately, many people from poorer communities do not have the same support from their families, teachers or friends. Their plight is made worse by the public institutions they engage with reinforcing the negative, self-limiting beliefs from home. For example, they may only be encouraged to pursue low-skilled and low-paid jobs. This habitually takes the shape of teachers discouraging children from pursing certain careers and creating self-limiting beliefs. This subtle discouragement often shapes beliefs and impacts the way they interact and perceive themselves in the world around them.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">I<strong>&nbsp;</strong>often encountered discouragement and bigotry, which was subtly and surreptitiously cloaked as concern&nbsp;by teachers and friends.</p> <p>From my personal experience ethnic minorities and young people from poorer backgrounds have been, and are still, being "written-off”<strong> </strong>as low achievers; a point which the former education Secretary Nicky Morgan briefly alluded to in March 2015.</p> <p>This was a reality for me growing up as I<strong> </strong>often encountered discouragement and bigotry, which was subtly and surreptitiously cloaked as concern by teachers and friends. Black and Minority Ethnic (or BME) and low-income communities are often confronted with this narrative and it easily becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. This may be exacerbated by a lack of diversity in education. According to the <a href="https://policyexchange.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Bittersweet-Success-Glass-Ceiling-FINAL-DRAFT.pdf" target="_blank">Policy Exchange Report ‘Bitter Sweet Success?’</a> the “minority presence” in the education profession is less felt when compared to other professions attaining only 8% of BME secondary school teachers. </p> <p>A holistic view needs to be adopted when identifying the causes of and solutions to<strong> </strong>the over-representation of BME’s in the criminal justice system. I believe there is a link, correlative if not casual, between crime, education and unemployment.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">At present, people from&nbsp;black and ethnic minority groups make up over a quarter of prisoners in England and Wales, but only 14% of the wider population.</p> <p>In early 2016 the former Prime Minister, David Cameron, <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/david-cameron/12131928/Labours-David-Lammy-to-lead-government-race-review.html" target="_blank">reaffirmed the narrative</a> by saying: “<em>If you’re black, you’re more likely to be in a prison cell than studying at a </em><em>top university</em><strong><em>.</em></strong><em> And if you’re black, it seems you’re more likely to be sentenced to custody for a crime than if you’re white</em>.” Theresa May also said words to this effect in her first speech as prime-minister. The <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/lammy-review" target="_blank">Lammy Review,</a> alongside organisations like the Society of Black Lawyers, are seeking to explore the causes of this disparity and offer solutions. These attitudes undoubtedly contribute to the self-fulfilling prophecy of low achievement and apathy amongst disadvantaged groups in society. There are no black generals in our armed forces and just 4% of chief executives in the FTSE 100 are from ethnic minority backgrounds. There are only two Asian High Court Judges and there are none of African Caribbean origin after the resignation of Linda Dobbs who recently spoke about her experience of race discrimination as a barrister and as a Judge. </p> <p>One of the biggest hurdles to achieving a truly diverse and inclusive justice system has been getting people to realise that creating a diverse legal profession is, in effect, all about change. This is inherently difficult to grasp, particularly in a profession that has been built on tradition and custom. Historically, there has been more resistance than acceptance of these changes. This has resulted in the creation of a number of associations, groups and committees.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">I believe that the cause of over-representation in the criminal justice system of specific groups is due to under-representation and a lack of diversity of the people administering justice.</p> <p>I believe that the cause of over-representation in the criminal justice system of specific groups is due to under-representation and a lack of diversity of the people administering justice. At present, people from black and ethnic minority groups make up over a quarter of prisoners in England and Wales, but only 14% of the wider population. Figures also show that 61% of offenders from black and ethnic minority backgrounds receive jail sentences, compared to 56% of white offenders for the same crime.</p> <p>There remains an issue in relation to the progression of BME practitioners at the Bar, with only 6% of QCs declaring that they are BME (compared with 12% of the practising Bar) and 90% declaring that they are white. These figures are the same as they were in 2014.</p> <p>This indicates an issue in relation to the progression of BME practitioners at the Bar. Diversity in the law is imperative to improving the legal and government infrastructure in the UK. If a judge, barrister, solicitor or police officer cannot relate to the ordinary people who rely on them to provide justice, can justice really be just? This does not mean having token people in play for optical pleasure as it potentially may have a knock on effect on their democratic legitimacy. Those who feel unheard and unrepresented will not engage and participate with the democratic process. These people are likely to feel that the legal system does not operate to protect or promote their interests. This lack of engagement facilitates, or is at least complicit, in perpetuating the over-representation of those same disenfranchised groups in the criminal justice system. This, in turn, creates a reluctance on the part of BME communities to engage with the establishment and perform invaluable public services.</p> <p>The legal system appears to be evolving somewhat. The Sentencing Council has published new guidelines for sentencing of children and young people which will be used as of 1 June 2017. One of the new requirements will be for judges to consider the over-representation of BME children in the youth justice system and to take into account particular factors, which arise in the case of children in this group.</p> <p>I established Urban Lawyers, which aims to to make the law (in its academic, practical and career contexts), more accessible to marginalized groups in society.&nbsp;<span>Other similar initiatives are emerging, particularly at universities. T</span><span>he University of Manchester have established Black Lawyers Matter, to address the under-representation of young black men studying law.</span></p> <p>Although it is encouraging to see changes and initiatives, we still have a very long way to go before we will see a real impact on the lives of BME people in our communities.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/samir-jeraj-heather-mcrobie/diversity-in-british-judiciary-on-backburner-for-too-long">Diversity in the British judiciary: on the backburner for too long</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/british-justice-system-fair-structure-for-women">The British justice system: a fair structure for women?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> openJustice uk openJustice Justice for the rich alone? (openJustice) Tunde Okewale Fri, 21 Apr 2017 17:09:12 +0000 Tunde Okewale 110300 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How safe is the legal aid 'safety net'? https://www.opendemocracy.net/openjustice/alison-picku/how-safe-is-legal-aid-safety-net <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>When the government decimated legal aid, they created a ‘safety net’ for human rights related cases. Has the scheme really helped to protect the rights of those most in need?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/PA-19229487.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/PA-19229487.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="296" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>An image of Chris Grayling held by protesters outside Westminster campaigning against legal aid cuts in 2014. Grayling was also the Lord Chancellor against whom cases were brought around the Exceptional Case Funding scheme. Photo: Press Association/Sean Dempsey. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>When the <a href="https://www.google.pt/search?q=Legal+Aid%2C+Sentencing+and+Punishment+of+Offenders+Act+2012&amp;oq=Legal+Aid%2C+Sentencing+and+Punishment+of+Offenders+Act+2012&amp;aqs=chrome..69i57j69i64.248j0j4&amp;sourceid=chrome&amp;ie=UTF-8" target="_blank">Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012</a> (‘LASPO’) came into force in April 2013, it made sweeping cuts to the availability of civil legal aid in England and Wales. LASPO removed legal aid for whole areas of social welfare law including most immigration, welfare benefits, debt and housing cases, and most private law family disputes such as divorce and child custody proceedings. Limited exceptions were made, for example for victims of domestic violence or children at risk of abuse, or for cases where people’s home is at risk.</p> <p>LASPO also contains a provision which is supposed to provide a “safety net” for cases where the denial of legal aid would lead to a breach of a person’s human rights, under the European Convention on Human Rights (‘ECHR’) or under EU law. This is the “Exceptional Case Funding” (‘ECF’) system under section 10 of LASPO.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Just over 1% of applications for ECF were granted in the first year.&nbsp;</p> <p>During the passage of LASPO through Parliament, Jonathan Djanogly MP, one of the ministers proposing the bill, said that:</p> <p class="blockquote-new">“The exceptional funding scheme will ensure that legal aid will be available where required—those cases in which people genuinely could not manage by themselves, and in which a failure to provide legal aid would be likely to breach an individual’s right to legal aid under the Human Rights Act 1998 or EU law.” <span>Commons Committee, 8th sitting, 6 September 2011, Column 349.</span></p> <p><span class="image-left">T</span>he main Convention rights in play are: the right to a fair hearing in the determination of civil rights and obligations (Article 6, ECHR); and the right to effective protection of a person’s right to respect for family and private life (Article 8, ECHR).</p> <p>ECF operates separately from normal, or ‘in scope’, legal aid. Legal aid providers can’t grant ECF. Instead clients have to make a separate application to the Legal Aid Agency (‘LAA’), setting out why, in their view, the denial of legal aid would breach their Convention or EU law rights. The application is “at risk” – there is no funding for the time spent by a provider helping the client to apply unless the application is successful. The target time frame for responding to urgent applications is five working days, which is simply not quick enough for many very urgent cases (for normal legal aid, the standard timeframe for an emergency legal aid application is 48 hours, and a decision can be made more quickly in very urgent cases). </p> <p>The Lord Chancellor has published guidance about ECF which LAA decision makers are required to follow when considering ECF applications. The first version of this guidance set the bar very high. It advised decision makers that ECF would only be required to comply with Article 6 ECHR in “<em>very limited circumstances</em>” (para 9) and that “<em>the threshold for such a breach is very high</em>” (para 10). It described “<em>the overarching question</em>” as “<em>whether the withholding of legal aid would make the assertion of the claim practically impossible or lead to an obvious unfairness in proceedings</em>” and, in case it wasn't already obvious, it added that “<em>this is a very high threshold</em>” (para 18). </p> <p>In respect of Article 8, the guidance said that “<em>it would normally only be [granted] in circumstances closely analogous to</em>” two decided cases, both of which concerned a need for legal representation in complex family proceedings, that legal aid would be required to ensure compliance with Article 8 (para 27). </p> <p>In relation to immigration cases, the guidance pointed out that, according to the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, decisions relating to the entry, stay and deportation of immigrants and proceedings relating to immigration status do not generally involve the determination of civil rights and obligations (para 59). It then set out the Lord Chancellor’s view that: </p> <p class="blockquote-new">“The Lord Chancellor does not consider that there is anything in the current case law that would put the state under a legal obligation to provide legal aid in immigration proceedings in order to meet the procedural requirements of article 8 ECHR”</p> <p>As a result of this guidance, as well as practical difficulties with making ECF applications, it was indeed practically impossible to get ECF at the beginning of the scheme. Just over 1% of applications for ECF were granted in the first year. Only a small number of applications for ECF were made, a fraction of the numbers which the Ministry of Justice had predicted while LASPO was under consideration by Parliament.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“<em>the critical question is whether an unrepresented litigant is able to present his case effectively and without obvious unfairness”.</em></p> <p>In the judicial review case of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/gudanavicience-ors-v-dir-of-legal-aid.pdf">Gudanaviciene</a>, brought against the Lord Chancellor in 2014,<span>&nbsp;</span>the Court of Appeal found that this guidance was unlawful. First, it set the bar too high. The test was not whether it would be practically impossible for the litigant to proceed without legal aid and nor was there a “very high threshold”. Rather “<em>the critical question is whether an unrepresented litigant is able to present his case effectively and without obvious unfairness</em>” (paragraph 56). Secondly, as the Lord Chancellor conceded shortly before the hearing in the Court of Appeal, there will be a legal obligation to provide ECF in immigration cases where it is necessary to ensure that an individual is able to effectively participate in a decision making process which affects his family and private life rights. Following this judgment, the Lord Chancellor amended the guidance to reflect the Court of Appeal’s findings about the circumstances in which ECF should be granted.</p> <p>One of the six claimants whose cases were heard together in the <em>Gudanaviciene </em>case, Mr IS, acting by the Official Solicitor, also brought a broader challenge to the lawfulness of the ECF scheme, arguing that the scheme as a whole was so unfair and inaccessible as to be unlawful. That challenge succeeded in the High Court but the <a href="http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2014/1622.html">Lord Chancellor successfully appealed to the Court of Appeal</a>. The Court of Appeal accepted however that “<em>It is plain that there have been real difficulties; and there is no contest but that improvements could be made, not least to the ECF form</em>… <em>the success rate remains low and the number of applications strikes me as modest”</em> (para 54); Lord Justice Laws also observed that “<em>The extent of the difficulties is however troubling. No doubt the LAA and the Lord Chancellor will be astute to look for improvements, and will do so on a continuing basis</em>” (para 57).</p> <p>This litigation has however led to a number of changes which have improved the accessibility of ECF. The form has been simplified. The urgency procedure has been improved (although, as noted above, it remains inadequate). It is now possible to apply for “ECF for ECF” so that providers can be paid for time spent investigating or gathering evidence in support of an application for ECF. Individual applicants can now receive a grant of ECF which they can take to a provider, rather than merely a positive indication.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Because legal aid providers are still not paid for making unsuccessful applications, for many it is economically unviable for them to do so.</p> <p>The number of ECF applications has increased. The latest LAA statistics show that from July to September 2016, there were 341 new applications for ECF, which remains a low figure compared to the MOJ’s estimated level of need, but is the highest number of new applications in any quarter since the start of the ECF scheme. The success rate for new applications decided in that quarter was 49% and 22% of review requests were successful. In immigration cases, the success rate was as high as 71%.&nbsp; </p> <p>Because legal aid providers are still not paid for making unsuccessful applications, for many it is economically unviable for them to do so. It is difficult for individuals to apply for ECF without assistance, but it is not impossible to do so. Some organisations run <em>pro bono </em>projects to help individuals to apply for ECF but there remains a far greater need than there is available assistance. The Public Law Project, which has run an ECF project assisting with applications for ECF since the start of the scheme, has developed a guide for individuals wanting to have a go at applying for ECF. The guide can be downloaded from PLP’s website <a href="http://www.publiclawproject.org.uk/resources/254/exceptional-case-funding-ecf-applying-as-an-unrepresented-person" target="_blank">here</a>. And there is more useful information about applying for ECF&nbsp;<a href="http://www.publiclawproject.org.uk/exceptional-funding-project" target="_blank">here</a>.</p> <p>PLP’s ECF project is coming to an end and we are no longer able to assist with making individual applications. However, we are able to offer training and support to other organisations wanting to support their service users in applying for ECF. </p> <hr size="1" /><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openjustice/melissa-darnbrough-and-nadia-hussain/when-no-good-deed-goes-unpunished">When no good deed goes unpunished</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openjustice/ronagh-craddock/asylum-seekers-are-left-destitute-and-homeless-due-to-lack-of-legal-aid">Asylum seekers are left destitute and homeless due to a lack of legal aid </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openjustice/oliver-carter/justice-open-to-all-like-ritz-hotel">Justice - open to all, like the Ritz hotel</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> openJustice uk openJustice Justice for the rich alone? (openJustice) Alison Pickup Mon, 10 Apr 2017 15:29:45 +0000 Alison Pickup 110023 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Hope for access to justice? https://www.opendemocracy.net/openjustice/john-nicholson/hope-for-access-to-justice <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Against a backdrop of cuts and closures, the Greater Manchester Law Centre opened its doors last year - an inspiration for grass-roots community organising. This is their story.<em></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/GMLC march.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/GMLC march.jpg" alt="" title="" width="415" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Greater Manchester Law Centre is not just a law centre but a campaign for justice. Photo by GMLC.</span></span></span></p><p>People are facing greater and greater hardship as a result of cuts in benefits, homelessness, uncertainty at work and escalating racism. Ken Loach's "<em>I Daniel Blake</em>" paints this picture of Britain today.</p> <p>Meanwhile, legal aid - an essential part of the justice system - has been cut again and again. And people facing the problems above are least able to pay for a lawyer, even if they can find one. The people most in need are most deprived of access to justice.&nbsp;</p> <p>Younger people cannot easily become social welfare lawyers when overwhelmed by student debt - with fewer job opportunities even for those who might want to work in legal aid.&nbsp;</p> <p>Greater Manchester Law Centre exists to challenge all this.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">We had no funds. We had no premises. But we had the commitment of people who share our view - that free, independent, high quality advice is crucial. &nbsp;</p> <p>Across the ten districts of the county of Greater Manchester there used to be nine law centres. Following government and council cuts just two are left (Bury and Rochdale in the north). We said that the downward spiral cannot be allowed to continue. We declared publicly "<em>With your help there WILL be a law centre for Greater Manchester</em>". </p> <p>There IS now.</p> <p>We had no funds. We had no premises. But we had the commitment of people who share our view - that free, independent, high quality advice is crucial for those in need - and who were prepared to put their own time and money towards it.&nbsp;</p> <p>We created an email list. We established a Steering Group (including&nbsp;lawyers, voluntary sector managers, trade unionists). We agreed that we needed a Constitution. We wrote a Business Plan and sought start-up funding.&nbsp;</p> <p>There were of course huge obstacles. Greater Manchester (which isn't just "Manchester") is an area which is disproportionately poor. Child poverty rates are among the highest in the country. And Greater Manchester has become the flagship for a form of "devolution" - joining the 10 councils to the local NHS, delegating an estimated £2billion health shortfall to the already cash-strapped local authorities. There are well-researched positive health outcomes from providing people with high quality legal advice, but there isn't so much clear money to pay for it through this "GM" cropping.</p> <p>Not everywhere has to contend with this particular mix. But our stand against cuts and closures may encourage others and, if we can do it against these odds, then....</p><p class="mag-quote-center">People started coming in with plastic bags of documents, desperate for anyone who could listen to their problems, before we were even open.</p> <p>What exactly did we do? First there was the "inextricable circle" - without services, you don't get funding. Without funding, you can't get premises. Without premises, there aren't any services. The trick is to do it all at once. Its like telling A that B will fund you and telling B that C will fund you and then going back to C with the support of A and B. And we did it!</p> <p>Second we wanted to develop one particular service. Without a supervising solicitor, insurance, advice manuals or even a computer, it is difficult. Volunteer advisers may not be available during working hours. So we advertised, found part-time and retired advisers, trained them, and got a local solicitor's firm to take on supervision.&nbsp;</p> <p>Third we had to beg a building, and furniture to go in it, and&nbsp;manage it. This can take over everything else. You can forget you are trying to deliver services (never mind advocating more generally) because you have to overcome the obstacles of utility suppliers and their competition companies all trying to sell the same service, alarms, intercoms, security, lift, water, refuse, sanitary, cleaning... You also need to find, induct, train and manage office volunteers, who can no only open the door but help give general information and direction to anyone calling. People started coming in with plastic bags of documents, desperate for anyone who could listen to their problems, before we were even open.&nbsp;Referrals to us have varied widely - the police sent someone to us because they had lost their coat.</p> <p>Fourth we had to manage an organisation. There has been a huge commitment by a few volunteer managers, several of us trying to maintain full time legal aid practice at the same time. But if you say you want to do it, you can. We have sought out sessional solicitors, applied for funding (successfully gaining a Supervising Solicitor post for 3 years and a Development Manager for 18 months), and attracted over 500 supporters to our email list, including over 50 "core" volunteer advisers, fund-raisers, office volunteers.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The local newsagent will not let us pay for milk when we go into the shop, and the Nubian coffee shop delivers us patties and drinks.&nbsp;</p> <p>Fifth, we have sought sustainability. By using pro bono barristers and solicitors, using students and volunteers, we intend to support the advice we give without needing to rely on the restrictive nature of declining state contracts. Volunteers are the backbone of the law centre. We will only sustain it through individual and community efforts of people doing it for ourselves. </p> <p>Crucially we needed community support. We held two local public meetings in Moss Side before we moved in to see if people were in favour. They were. Unanimously. The local newsagent will not let us pay for milk when we go into the shop, and the Nubian coffee shop delivers us patties and drinks.</p><p>There were over 500 people who attended our Opening Event on 11 February 2017 - held at the nearby West Indian Sports and Social Centre, after a short march with banner and placards from the centre itself, where our "Patrons" Robert Lizar (long time legal aid lawyer in Moss Side) and Erinma Bell (community activist and prominent justice campaigner) cut the ribbon -&nbsp;of "No Access to Justice" - by declaring that there WILL be access to justice, here, because we say there will.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">We are not just a law centre, but a campaign for law centres, access to the legal system, and for justice<span>.&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Following this, the gathering heard from Michael Mansfield, who called for more community-led law centres, and Maxine Peake (our very own north-west&nbsp;lawyer as seen on TV), while the Holy Name primary school entertained us with their steel band and the choir of WAST (Women Asylum Seekers Together) called for freedom and justice for all.&nbsp;</p> <p>We are not just a law centre, but a campaign for law centres, access to the legal system, and for justice<span>.&nbsp;</span>We aren't providing a bit of service delivery, important though that is, on the lines of foodbanks - we are a campaign for properly funded legal aid. We want that new generation of publicly funded, social welfare lawyers: that is why we have set up a Legal Academic Services Board of the five local university&nbsp;law departments/colleges whose students will be volunteering with us and representing appellants at the Tribunal - a scheme following the Avon and Bristol Law Centre, who, as with other law centres, have been very helpful in guiding our development. And of course we aren't just looking for pro bono lawyer support, vital though that is at present, to keep open the channel to legal aid,&nbsp;but also we want&nbsp;their structural and long term financial commitment. Our Lawyer Fund Generation Scheme calls on all lawyers in private practice in Greater Manchester to give us 0.5% of their salary - and to get their own firms to do likewise. We aim to be around for a long time to come.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>If you are interested in supporting the GMLC email&nbsp;<a href="mailto:info@gmlaw.org.uk" target="_blank">info@gmlaw.org.uk</a> and see&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gmlaw.org.uk/" target="_blank">www.gmlaw.org.uk</a>.</strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openjustice/oliver-carter/justice-open-to-all-like-ritz-hotel">Justice - open to all, like the Ritz hotel</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openjustice/roger-smith/can-technology-save-access-to-justice">Can technology save access to justice?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openjustice/ronagh-craddock/asylum-seekers-are-left-destitute-and-homeless-due-to-lack-of-legal-aid">Asylum seekers are left destitute and homeless due to a lack of legal aid </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> openJustice uk openJustice Justice for the rich alone? (openJustice) John Nicholson Mon, 03 Apr 2017 11:17:35 +0000 John Nicholson 109854 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The dark corners of our justice system https://www.opendemocracy.net/openjustice/eric-allison/dark-corners-of-our-justice-system <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>By failing to allow access to prisons and youth detention centres, the Ministry of Justice is allowing abuse and violence to flourish.<em></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/PA-30654454.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/PA-30654454.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>It was only through undercover filming that alleged abuse at the G4S run Medway Secure Training Centre (STC) in Kent, England was exposed. Photo credit: Press Association/Franziska Kraufmann. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>It may be thought that here in the UK, we have nothing to learn from the American penal system. After all, the ‘land of the free’ locks up more of its citizens than any country on earth and though it only accounts for just over four per cent of the world’s population, it locks up some 22% of the world’s prisoners. And convicts in America suffer appalling conditions, with many thousands entombed in solitary confinement for years, decades even.</p> <p>However, there is one aspect of the US prison system the UK would do well to copy: the access it provides to the media. A thought occurred to me recently. I have been in many jails in England and Wales, both as a prisoner and since picking up the pen for the Guardian 13 years ago.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">How we treat prisoners will have a marked effect on how they treat us, when they are set free.</p> <p>In my previous existence, I was regarded as a troublesome prisoner by my keepers and was moved around the system frequently. But I reckon I have seen the inside of more American jails than those in the UK’s system. Yet I have never set foot in America and never felt the urge to do so.</p> <h2><span>The envy of the world?</span></h2><p>My knowledge of life in US slammers stems from the willingness of the prisons there to allow television documentary-makers to go behind bars seemingly at will. I have seen death row in several prisons, the obscene conditions in the Supermax facilities and the bedlam of county jails, the ‘front doors’ to the US penal system.</p> <p>But here in the UK – where it used to be commonly asserted that British Justice was the envy of the world – television viewers are rarely allowed to see what goes on in our jails and journalistic access to prisons, though improved under Michael Gove’s recent tenure as Justice Secretary, is still severely restricted.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Prisoners suffer abuse in dark corners, the only places where abuse flourishes. We should be shining a light on these places, only then can we guarantee our jails are abuse free.</p> <p>Does it matter, do we need to know? Absolutely. By and large, we know what goes on in most of our institutions. We can visit schools, hospitals,&nbsp;<em>et al</em>&nbsp;but our prisons remain largely out of the public eye. And it matters, because how we treat prisoners will have a marked effect on how they treat us, when they are set free.</p> <p>When prisoners suffer abuse, beyond the abusive conditions so many are held in, they suffer it in dark corners, the only places where abuse flourishes. We should be shining a light on these places, only then can we guarantee our jails are abuse free.</p> <p>Earlier this year, I was involved in the making of the Panorama programme which exposed the alleged abuse of children at the G4S run Medway Secure Training Centre (STC) Kent. A Guardian investigation in February this year revealed that the government and the Youth Justice Board, who oversee the detention of children, had been warned of the abuse by whistleblowers many years before, but no action was taken to investigate the serious allegations made.</p> <p>I had been on Medway’s case for some six years before we ran the story. I had spoken to many children who had been detained there and the stories of abuse they had suffered, or witnessed, rang true. It was clear to me that the STC was not fit for purpose.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Panorama sent an undercover reporter to Medway working as a guard. He had a hidden camera and recorded some disturbing footage. Only then was action taken.</p> <p>But we could not stand the story up, because we only had the words of the children and nobody listens to kids. Panorama sent an undercover reporter to Medway working as a guard. He had a hidden camera and recorded some disturbing footage; he shone a light, if you like. Only then was action taken.</p> <p>I spoke at length with two former residents of Medway who both suffered appalling abuse there. They complained, many times, but nobody listened. Perhaps the most shocking revelation they made was that, though both spent long periods at Medway, they never once met the then director of the facility. It appears he did not meet the children placed in his care.</p><h2><em><strong>Shining a light?</strong></em></h2><p>Had journalists been allowed access to Medway and other prisons, it is unlikely the abuse would have continued for as long as it did. But no lights were shining on these dark corners of the system.</p> <p>A stark contrast then to visit Spain and look at their juvenile detention system, as I did with a colleague, Simon Hattenstone in 2014. Since 1992, virtually all of the children’s prisons in Spain have been run by a not for profit charity Diagrama&nbsp;(<em>Tough love: is this a model prison for children?</em>&nbsp;November 7, 2014).</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Compared to youth detention in the UK, Spain are light years ahead.&nbsp;</p> <p>We visited two youth prisons, dubbed ‘re-educational centres’ and one secure children’s home, all run by Diagrama. In all three places, we were given absolute access. We chose the children we wanted to speak to and talked to them out of earshot of the staff. Diagrama offered to supply us with an interpreter, but did not object when we asked to take our own. There were no dark corners.</p> <p>Compared to youth detention in the UK, Spain are light years ahead. Perhaps the most telling statistic that emerged from our visit is this: Diagrama has not had a single suicide in any of the centres it has run since 1992. At the time we wrote about Spain, 33 children under 18 had died in custody, in England and Wales and all but two had killed themselves.</p> <p>I have a long list of prisoner sources across the spectrum of jails in this country. As a result, I have a blacklist of a dozen or so prisons and Young Offender Institutions, from where I receive regular accounts of abuse by staff. Can I report on it? No, because, at the moment, I only have the word of prisoners and, like the children abused in STCs, nobody listens to prisoners.</p> <p>Prior to the undercover reporter going into Medway, one of the Panorama team expressed concerns: ‘What if we don’t find abuse? I was asked. I replied. “If you go in a farm yard, you will find animal shit. Go into Medway and you will find abuse.”’</p> <p>I am equally certain that prisoners are being abused in the jails on my blacklist. In February, David Cameron gave a speech in which he endorsed the reforms planned by the then justice minister, Michael Gove. He spoke of prisons, closed off by high walls and barbed wire and said it would be easy to adopt an ‘out of sight. out of mind attitude’.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Why can’t I – and other journalists – demand admission?&nbsp;</p> <p>David Cameron said he wanted there to be no ‘no-go areas’ in the system. In fact, the whole of the penal estate in England and Wales is a no-go area. Yes, cameras are allowed in occasionally, but always on Ministry of Justice (MoJ) terms. And I repeat, under Michael Gove’s stewardship, media access improved.</p> <p>For example, in May 2016, Wandsworth, one of the most troubled jails in the country, opened it’s doors to the BBC. It was a brave move; the cameras showed a prison in meltdown; violent incidents an everyday occurrence, more and more prisoners suffering mental health problems and drugs freely available. Granting access was a calculated move by the MoJ; brought on , I was told, to counter the ‘Holiday Camp’ bunkum, regularly dispensed by the tabloids. It did that all right, shining a light on the violence (up 31% according to figures published in July 2016), the squalor and the tension.</p> <p>Wandsworth, although once synonymous with prisoner abuse by staff, is not on my blacklist of jails, those where the evidence of abuse is consistently strong. Why can’t I – and other journalists – demand admission? Let us see the segregation units, the prisons within prisons, where abuse, if it exists, usually occurs. And the Close Supervision Centres, where those prisoners deemed to be the most disruptive in the system are housed. These are the darkest of dark corners and the source of so many disturbing reports.</p> <p>The MoJ always deny reports of abuse, but I repeat, I have evidence. I am the prisons correspondent for a respected national newspaper. Let me do my job. If the system&nbsp;has nothing to hide, it has nothing to fear from a shining light.</p><p><em><strong>This article first appeared on the Justice Gap&nbsp;<a href="http://thejusticegap.com/2017/01/proof-magazine-dark-corners-justice-system/">here</a>&nbsp;and features in&nbsp;<a href="http://thejusticegap.com/proof-magazine/">Proof magazine</a>&nbsp;issue 2.</strong></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openjustice/prisons-places-of-harm-and-dehabilitation">Prisons: places of harm and dehabilitation</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> openJustice uk openJustice Eric Allison Mon, 27 Mar 2017 12:37:10 +0000 Eric Allison 109693 at https://www.opendemocracy.net UK government wants to move justice online - but can computers perform essentially human functions? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/geoffrey-bindman/uk-government-wants-to-move-justice-online-but-can-computers-perform-essentially <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Online courts may replace justice, empathy and judgment with compromise and efficiency.<em></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/MicroATX_Motherboard_with_AMD_Athlon_Processor_2_Digon3.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/MicroATX_Motherboard_with_AMD_Athlon_Processor_2_Digon3.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="424" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A motherboard - lacking in the crucial skills of empathy and judgment. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/Jonathan Zander, CC-BY-SA-3.0. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Lawyers and the legal system have cautiously embraced the technological revolution. Advances in communication and processing information have already transformed legal practice. &nbsp;Yet doubts arise when technology begins to replace functions which seem to need exclusively human qualities, such as judgement and empathy.</p> <p>In September 2016 the Lord Chancellor announced that the £1 billion programme of court reform to which her department is committed would include an online court for civil disputes. The advantages of online communication in the stages leading up to the adjudication of a dispute are clear enough, but should we allow decision making without human intervention? We may accept the driverless car but are we ready for the lawyerless or even judgeless court? And is the litigant pursuing a claim or defence online on a level playing field with an opponent advised by a live lawyer? The danger in online justice is that the current imbalance between the parties with and without skilled assistance will grow ever wider.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The danger in online justice is that the current imbalance between the parties with and without skilled assistance will grow ever wider.</p> <p>In her announcement, Liz Truss, the UK's Lord Chancellor, referred to proposals made by Lord Justice Briggs in his <em><a href="https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/publications/civil-courts-structure-review-final-report/" target="_blank">Civil Courts Structure Review</a></em>, published in July 2016. The 62 recommendations in the report (most of which are about the distribution of responsibilities among the existing courts rather than the online court) have since been endorsed by the Lord Chief Justice and the Master of the Rolls.</p> <p>Echoing Briggs, Liz Truss said: <span class="blockquote-new">“<em>we will create a new process to resolve many disputes entirely online using innovative technology and specialist case officers to progress routine cases through the system and reserving judicial time for the most complex cases…. When hearings are required , they may be held over the telephone or video conference, focusing court resources on the most complex and difficult cases.</em>”&nbsp; </span></p> <p>The Briggs proposal adopted by the Government does not in fact replace judges but it certainly seeks to remove lawyers. While limited at this stage to civil money claims under £25,000 it is obviously the thin end of the wedge if it is deemed successful, because it will cut costs. Indeed another online scheme for motoring offences and minor criminal cases is already being developed.</p> <p>The online civil court will be conventional - staffed by judges and civil servants. The final decision on substantive rights and duties will be made entirely by judges. However, the online court “will have resolution rather than determination at its heart”. Dispute resolution will no longer be “alternative”.&nbsp; Compromise, rather than the fairest outcome, will be the primary objective.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Compromise, rather than the fairest outcome, will be the primary objective.</p> <p>The scheme adopts the idea proposed by last year’s report <em><a href="http://2bquk8cdew6192tsu41lay8t.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/JUSTICE-working-party-report-Delivering-Justice-in-an-Age-of-Austerity.pdf" target="_blank">Delivering Justice in an Age of Austerity</a></em> published by the&nbsp;human rights&nbsp;and law reform organisation, <a href="https://justice.org.uk/" target="_blank">Justice</a>. The report proposed the creation of a body of legally qualified “registrars” – Briggs prefers to call them “case officers”. Their function is to manage the second stage of a process which starts with what Briggs calls “<em>automated online investigative triage</em>”. The first stage is entirely online, consisting of sets of sequential screens on which the claimant or defendant can formulate his or her grievance or response in an online pleading “<em>entirely free from legal jargon</em>” as Briggs says “<em>but identifying the key facts relied on</em>”. Within this process, for which models are available in British Columbia and the Netherlands, the parties will be required to exchange documentary and other evidence.</p> <p>The case officer, having received this material, will select the most appropriate means for resolution of the dispute which the material presents. A range of mediation opportunities can be provided, with the option for either party to go to the judge for the determination of substantive rather than merely procedural questions.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Unfortunately the online court risks endangering justice in all but the most clear cut cases.</p> <p>Using technological advances to improve the judicial system is an indisputable benefit but technological change which compromises justice in order to save money is unacceptable. Unfortunately the online court risks endangering justice in all but the most clear cut cases . </p> <p>It may help some of those currently denied access to the law because they cannot afford professional assistance, but only if they are computer literate or can be helped by those who are. But even for those who can navigate the system, can they match the capacity of a corporate or institutional opponent with professional assistance? </p> <p>The case officers or registrars are meant to be impartial. Their function, desirable as it may be, is to clarify issues and save judicial time. But they will not provide the lawyerless litigant with the vigorous partisan representation, tactical know-how, and experience available to an affluent opponent. </p> <p>A fair justice system and a fair society demand equality of arms and a level playing field. A number of recent economy measures – closing of courts, reduction of court staff, increased fees for litigants, draconian cuts to legal aid, fixed fees which reduce profitability for claimants’ solicitors – have combined to widen the inequality gap. The online court will widen it further.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">'Case officers' will not provide the lawyerless litigant with the vigorous partisan representation, tactical know-how, and experience available to an affluent opponent.</p> <p>Those who resist the onward march of technology are seen as Luddites, desperately hoping to save their jobs by destroying the machinery which makes them redundant.&nbsp; A reasoned approach to the issue may be more in keeping with the dignity of the profession, but redundancy is a very real prospect. Is our fate to be death by a thousand cuts?</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openjustice/roger-smith/can-technology-save-access-to-justice">Can technology save access to justice?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openjustice/oliver-carter/justice-open-to-all-like-ritz-hotel">Justice - open to all, like the Ritz hotel</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk openJustice Justice for the rich alone? (openJustice) Geoffrey Bindman Thu, 16 Mar 2017 16:47:51 +0000 Geoffrey Bindman 109440 at https://www.opendemocracy.net