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Save legal aid from Grayling’s ‘CRAP’ policy

'What will ordinary people do when faced with injustice?' asks the satirical animation launched today in the wake of the devastating cuts to legal aid

13 April 2015

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With a WOOSH CLANG ZOOM and an A-list line-up of British stars - the LEGAL AID TEAM hits the screen today.

The six-minute cartoon, from an award-winning production duo, aims to hammer home to the largely oblivious British public the nature and impact of the government's legal aid cuts - reducing access to justice and increasing miscarriages of justice.

Aired as the political parties launch their manifestos, the film urges the public to use their power at the ballot box and make the cuts an election issue.

Star of the BBC's courtroom drama Silk, Maxine Peake, cast as a superhero legal aid lawyer, intones: 'The general election is just a month away, and that means you, the people of Britain, are at your most powerful.

'You can show Westminster that the British people will not see justice reserved for the rich.'

The film portrays a maniacal Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling in a Tory-blue anti-hero outfit, expelling a villainous laugh as he announces his Cuts Reform Action Plan - 'CRAP'.

With Margaret Thatcher portraits hanging from the walls, and a Maggie mug and 'Dummies Guide to Justice' on Grayling's desk, the film explains simply the areas of law no longer covered by legal aid.

'Behold the Britain yet to come - the future of British law,' cackles Grayling.

Viewers glimpse a dystopian nightmarish future where uniformed automaton lawyers at two monster firms - Lesco Law and H4S - programmed only to think of cost, decline to help those in need.

Their robotic voices inform a domestic violence victim, a woman trafficked for slave labour, and a father seeking contact with his children - 'I cannot hep you. You must represent yourself'.

With voiceovers from a stellar line-up of British talent, including Simon Callow, Joanna Lumley, Richard Wilson and Paterson Joseph, the animators demonstrate those who are suffering as a result of the cuts:

'These reforms penalise our most vulnerable citizens.'

They also set the record straight over the government's cynical portrayal of legal aid lawyers as 'fat cats':

'You're thinking of corporate lawyers representing big business - legal aid lawyers earn around twenty-five thousand a year - less than nurses or teachers.'

They expose the effect of the curbs on judicial review, shielding the state from challenge to its unlawful actions: 'Judicial review is how people challenge the state and its laws. Without proper judicial review, a government can do what it wants.'

And they highlight the false economy of it all: 'These cuts will cost much more.'

To the challenges, a chortling Grayling responds: 'I have no legal experience - I can't see anything.'

The short film, to be shown on the Guardian's website, concludes with the rallying cry: 'British law with legal aid. Together we can save it!'

Whether it will make the public understand the value and importance of legal aid and the vital work that the real super hero legal aid lawyers do remains to be seen, but one can but hope. If it's seen widely enough it might get the message across. So help spread the word.

Watch the film in full here.

Catherine Baksi is a freelance legal journalist @legalhackette

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