‘The vital role of legal aid cannot be underestimated in the current climate. More than ever the integrity of the rule of law will be at stake. There will be no mechanism for those of lesser means to benefit from equality before the law without legal aid.
‘The clients I represent are some of the most disenfranchised and powerless in society: children in prison. They need legal aid to make sure that their rights are not completely abused, to make sure that they spend the shortest possible time in custody, to ensure that the parole process works and that they have somewhere safe to live when they come out. Legal aid is crucial in making this happen.
‘Already we are seeing social workers suddenly made redundant or the release packages that are crucial to their safe rehabilitation in the community suddenly not available. This can mean these children’s lives, and taxpayers’ money, are wasted by children spending unnecessary time in jail.’
‘The comprehensive spending review has spelt out a new era where the weakest in our society have now restricted rights. With cuts to local authorities, law centres and citizens advice bureaux are set to lose vital funds that enable them to educate people about their rights. Coupled with the threat that the Ministry of Justice will announce a withdrawal or at the very least a reduction in access to legal aid, and in particular social welfare aid, this means that the voice of the ordinary citizen is being silenced.
‘Enabling all to seek justice is the only way that powerful institutions and people can be held accountable. As our economy is set to enter a renewed phase of recession, as over a million people lose their jobs, their homes and their welfare support, now, more than ever, it is crucial that we start to fight back and salvage legal aid and advice out of the cuts bonfire before the fire is lit.’
‘The importance of legal aid as a mechanism by which to hold state bodies to account is perhaps most apparent when representing victims of police violence. Where the perpetrator of an offence is a serving police officer, a victim can’t just walk into a police station and report the officer as having committed a crime. Instead, there is a long and arduous complaints process, with investigations conducted by other officers. Appeals are taken to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, a third of whose investigators are former police officers, and complaints are rarely upheld. When complaints are substantiated it is almost unheard of that officers are prosecuted.
‘In these circumstances the only means by which to hold the police to account is by bringing an action in the civil courts. Given these immense and frequently bewildering challenges, the provision of legal aid throughout the process is vital to victims. Shockingly, it was recently revealed that the Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson secretly lobbied the government to place police officers above the law under the guise of saving costs.’
‘We need to remind ourselves that at the end of the second world war, when much of our infrastructure was destroyed, resources were scarce and debt reached 250 per cent of GDP, it was still possible to construct a vision of social justice – the welfare state. Two of the main pillars were the National Health Service and a national legal welfare service. Since then the NHS has expanded massively with spending in the region of £100 billion (rightly so), whereas legal aid has lagged well behind on under £2 billion per annum.’
Michael Mansfield QC, human rights lawyer
‘The UK has a powerful democracy demonstrated by the combination of our legal system and the unwritten constitutional guarantee that abuses of power by the state will not go unchecked. Judicial review exists to check such abuses. When UK soldiers brutally beat Baha Mousa to death in Iraq, judicial review forced the MoD to hold a public inquiry. That inquiry is examining how it came about that the techniques banned by the Heath government following internment in Northern Ireland (hooding, stress positions, sleep, food and water deprivation etc) came back as standard operating procedure in Iraq.
‘Those and other abuses of power will always remain unchecked if not for the combination of civil legal aid and judicial review. One without the other simply will not work. How could Colonel Mousa, Baha’s father, have afforded to pay his lawyers’ fees and those of the MoD if his case, taken all the way to the House of Lords in June 2007, had lost? Yet it is precisely this threat that we now face.
‘Unnamed sources at the MoJ are putting it about that human rights lawyers are “abusing the system”. What this really means is that there are those in the dark corridors of power at the MoD who have much to lose if the nation learns how many Iraqis were killed or tortured in UK custody.’
‘It is tempting now to think that there was a time when legal aid fulfilled the aspirations of the 1945 Labour government. There has never been a golden age. Legal aid has never been adequately funded and there have always been limits on its scope, which have denied justice to many. Yet access to justice is fundamental to our social well being and access to justice demands a level playing field, which is impossible without legal aid. In the current state of the legal system, cutting legal aid deprives the impecunious of the means to secure their rights under the law.’
Grassroots posters giving an alternative take on the general election
Hundreds of people surrounded the fences this weekend. Hera Lorandos spoke to women who have suffered inside.
Laying out the case for Labour's leadership of a Progressive Alliance, Jeremy Gilbert argues that far from posing a threat to the Left, the Progressive Alliance offers a golden opportunity to end Tory rule and build a 21st century government committed to social justice
The Greens have stood down in Brighton Kemptown to clear the way for Labour, and the Lib Dems won’t stand in Brighton’s other seat, Green-held Pavilion. Davy Jones, who would have been the Green candidate in Kemptown, says this shows the way forward
The snap general election represents a unique opportunity to defeat this terrible government. We believe that visual artists have a crucial role to play!
Drax is the UK's biggest source of CO2 emissions – and we're paying for it, writes Almuth Ernsting
For the past 3 years, Barby Asante and members of London-based artists' collective, sorryyoufeeluncomfortable, have been responding directly to the vision of James Baldwin. Ahead of the nationwide release of a new film about the American activist and author, they reflect on the enduring relevance of Baldwin in Britain today.
Housing campaigners' gains in Bristol are spurring on a national movement to build a renters' union, writes Stuart Melvin
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
Civic strike paralyses Colombia’s principle pacific port
An alliance of community organisations are fighting ’to live with dignity’ in the face of military repression. Patrick Kane and Seb Ordoñez report.
Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports
On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.
Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns
The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections
In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines
Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.
West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective
How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences
The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally
Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change
Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace