Try Red Pepper in print with our pay-as-you-feel subscription. You decide the price, from as low as £2 a month.More info ×
‘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.’
Hsiao-Hung Pai meets people affected by the fire, and finds sadness and suffering mixed with a continuing wariness of the official investigations
Chris Williamson MP, winner of the election's tightest marginal, Derby North, and recently reappointed shadow minister for fire services, talks to Ashish Ghadiali about Jeremy Corbyn, the housing crisis and winning from the left
The Corbyn-supporting group is preparing for another election at any moment, writes Adam Peggs – and now has the potential to create powerful training initiatives, union links and party reform efforts
’We believe in you. We are with you. We will never forget.’ Grenfell solidarity sweeps East London in mass banner drops from housing estates
Michael Calderbank profiles Jeremy Corbyn's new supporters in parliament
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) continues to witness devastating political violence, but the world refuses to act. Ishiaba Kasonga and Serge Egola Angbakodolo ask why?
When fire safety has become a privilege for the rich, it’s time to stop austerity and fund emergency mass works to raise standards immediately, writes Jane Shallice
The election result has irreversibly changed political discourse in the UK, writes James Fox
In commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Bernie Grant's election to parliament, Ayo Wallace explores the life and legacy of his radical representation of Tottenham's black communities.
Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole
Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part
Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper
Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s
Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach
Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.
Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite
Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead
Your vote can help Corbyn supporters win these vital Labour Party positions
Left candidate Seema Chandwani speaks to Red Pepper ahead of ballot papers going out to all members for a crucial Labour committee
Join the Rolling Resistance to the frackers
Al Wilson invites you to take part in a month of anti-fracking action in Lancashire with Reclaim the Power
The Grenfell public inquiry must listen to the residents who have been ignored for so long
Councils handed housing over to obscure, unaccountable organisations, writes Anna Minton – now we must hear the voices they silenced
India: Modi’s ‘development model’ is built on violence and theft from the poorest
Development in India is at the expense of minorities and the poor, writes Gargi Battacharya
North Korea is just the start of potentially deadly tensions between the US and China
US-China relations have taken on a disturbing new dimension under Donald Trump, writes Dorothy Guerrero
The feminist army leading the fight against ISIS
Dilar Dirik salutes militant women-organised democracy in action in Rojava
France: The colonial republic
The roots of France’s ascendant racism lie as deep as the origins of the French republic itself, argues Yasser Louati
This is why it’s an important time to support Caroline Lucas
A vital voice of dissent in Parliament: Caroline Lucas explains why she is asking for your help
PLP committee elections: it seems like most Labour backbenchers still haven’t learned their lesson
Corbyn is riding high in the polls - so he can face down the secret malcontents among Labour MPs, writes Michael Calderbank
Going from a top BBC job to Tory spin chief should be banned – it’s that simple
This revolving door between the 'impartial' broadcaster and the Conservatives stinks, writes Louis Mendee – we need a different media
I read Gavin Barwell’s ‘marginal seat’ book and it was incredibly awkward
Gavin Barwell was mocked for writing a book called How to Win a Marginal Seat, then losing his. But what does the book itself reveal about Theresa May’s new top adviser? Matt Thompson reads it so you don’t have to
We can defeat this weak Tory government on the pay cap
With the government in chaos, this is our chance to lift the pay cap for everyone, writes Mark Serwotka, general secretary of public service workers’ union PCS
Corbyn supporters surge in Labour’s internal elections
A big rise in left nominations from constituency Labour parties suggests Corbynites are getting better organised, reports Michael Calderbank
Undercover policing – the need for a public inquiry for Scotland
Tilly Gifford, who exposed police efforts to recruit her as a paid informer, calls for the inquiry into undercover policing to extend to Scotland
Becoming a better ally: how to understand intersectionality
Intersectionality can provide the basis of our solidarity in this new age of empire, writes Peninah Wangari-Jones
The myth of the ‘white working class’ stops us seeing the working class as it really is
The right imagines a socially conservative working class while the left pines for the days of mass workplaces. Neither represent today's reality, argues Gargi Bhattacharyya
The government played the public for fools, and lost
The High Court has ruled that the government cannot veto local council investment decisions. This is a victory for local democracy and the BDS movement, and shows what can happen when we stand together, writes War on Want’s Ross Hemingway.
An ‘obscure’ party? I’m amazed at how little people in Britain know about the DUP
After the Tories' deal with the Democratic Unionists, Denis Burke asks why people in Britain weren't a bit more curious about Northern Ireland before now
The Tories’ deal with the DUP is outright bribery – but this government won’t last
Theresa May’s £1.5 billion bung to the DUP is the last nail in the coffin of the austerity myth, writes Louis Mendee
Brexit, Corbyn and beyond
Clarity of analysis can help the left avoid practical traps, argues Paul O'Connell
Paul Mason vs Progress: ‘Decide whether you want to be part of this party’ – full report
Broadcaster and Corbyn supporter Paul Mason tells the Blairites' annual conference some home truths
Contagion: how the crisis spread
Following on from his essay, How Empire Struck Back, Walden Bello speaks to TNI's Nick Buxton about how the financial crisis spread from the USA to Europe