I finished the afternoon guiding two motions through the Congress, one on the ECHR and one on campaigning to restore legal aid. The CEC asked to refer them both although requiring to do due diligence on the Law Centre Network strikes me as a bit presumptions; next year I think I’ll try and instruct them to work with the Criminal Bar Association, which I should have contacted this year since two weeks later their industrial action to restore legal aid payments started.

Here are the notes I used in making the speech,

While we have policy on the restoration of legal aid, little seems to be done.

This is an essential human right and it impacts all our members in terms of access to justice, and in the case of our many lawyer members, members of our branch,  their ability to make a living as it also impacts the members I represent working for the Legal Aid Agency.

The right to a defence, free if necessary is a Human Right enshrined in Article 6 of the ECHR. Without legal aid this is not available.

The Tories have restricted the nature of cases for which legal aid is available, and reduced the rates at which its paid which is why the Bar Association is organising action.

I am pleased that the CEC is sympathetic to our motion.

The reason it was passed is that there is no broad campaign for its restoration and as a branch we feel that that the Union can do better and play an important and constructive role coalescing lawyers and citizens into a campaign.

We didn’t select the Law Centre Network out of a hat, it is the joint association for Law Centres which are at the sharp of the cuts and the impact they have on people, providing a free where possible service to defend people where needed and assert their rights where needed. I also believe they have an appetite to do something.  A campaign requires broad support of citizens, lawyers and judges. Judges alone will not make the difference, although I congratulate the Bar Association in its campaigns to rectify this wrong.

Of course the CEC have asked for referral since we propose working with another organisation. I hope that for next year they will consider support with qualification for motions like this and allow Congress to set goals and the due diligence can be performed after. I know that it has to be done, the strangest of reputable organisations would and do fail a due diligence but given we don’t even vote of referrals, this weakens the Congress mandate.

Given the choice between referral and opposition, we will refer and hope that the CEC will do better on actioning referred motions than they did last year where 79% have not been reported on.

I  move

Restore Legal Aid
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