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Not the Global Law Summit bangs drum for access to justice

'Bolshy briefs' refuse to allow justice system to be killed off

23 February 2015

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'Bolshy briefs' refuse to allow justice system to be killed off

Hundreds of lawyers gathered outside parliament today to protest against the government-backed Global Law Summit (GLS) and government policy that campaigners argue is hampering access to justice.

The event, dubbed the somewhat catchy 'Not the Global Law Summit', drew a crowd of practitioners, politicians, campaigners and at least one celebrity to rally against what some have called a 'jamboree' and the decimation of the legal system.

Speaking at the conclusion of the Justice Alliance's 'Relay for Rights' rally, Jonathan Black, president of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association (LCCSA) and partner at BSB Solicitors, said: "Just under two years ago when we gathered here in May 2013, the now iconic coffin symbolised the death of justice. We vowed to fight. As bolshy briefs, we've refused to allow the justice system to be killed off.

"Today our symbol is the medieval parchment of Magna Carta and King John. The right to a fair trial, the right to a fair defence, equal access to justice -- rich or poor."

He continued: "All too often we're dubbed 'fat cats', but we all know that the government's Magna Carta-fest - a mere stone's throw from here - is the ultimate 'Come and Get It' for Mr Grayling, international business leaders and his purring 'fat cat' guests. We outsiders, the NFI's, [the] Not Flipping Invited, are once again on the streets of Westminster, not to network but to expose the decimation of our justice system which is being flogged off at a glorified car boot sale."

Referencing the recent and controversial news that the Ministry of Justice is hoping to profit from selling its expertise to the prison service in Saudi Arabia, Black added: "Corporate Britain plc flogs its ideas to regimes who think it is okay to flog those who speak out."

Black concluded: "We're all here because we know the danger of people accused of a crime hastily pleading guilty in a lawyer-free police station. We know how important decent, thorough legal advice is after a charge. We know - even if Mr Grayling refuses to listen - that we're on a precipice. We're witnessing the vandalism and shredding of the legacy of the Great charter; of returning to the dark days of the 70s and 80s and the horror of miscarriages of justice. Don't say we didn't warn you!"

Continuing the theme, Matt Foot, criminal defence solicitor at Birnberg Peirce and Partners, commented: "Housing and family representation has been halved in the last five years. Tens of thousands of people have been denied access and they have the cheek to celebrate the Magna Carta. They are also celebrating free enterprise - that is what it says in the introduction from Cameron. If we had a little less free enterprise we'd easily be able to afford legal aid."

The shadow solicitor general, Karl Turner MP, was also in attendance. Speaking exclusively to SJ he said it was extremely important for him to show his support.

"I am not interested in attending this jamboree provided by the Lord Chancellor - some posh party event - when in fact he is eroding access to justice at every inch of his portfolio. This is a justice secretary who simply doesn't get it. It is not just because he doesn't have a qualification in law, he was always bad as a minister," he said.

"This is a completely failing justice secretary pandering to the right wing in his party and attacking access to justice. This means a lot to me and the Labour party and that is why Sadiq Khan has announced that we are not going to be implementing this barmy two-tier contracts for our on-call duty solicitors."

Also at the event was actress Maxine Peake, famous in legal circles for her role as the combative silk Martha Costello QC. As well as leading leading the final section of a 42-mile Relay for Rights march, from Runnymede to Westminster, she read from the Magna Carta, condemned the GLS, and said: "I'm honoured to help you continue to stick it to that lot over there".

John van der Luit-Drummond is legal reporter for Solicitors Journal

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