Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
‘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.’
The Spanish state is seizing ballot papers and raiding meetings, write Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte – but it is being met with united resistance
The crunch executive meeting ahead of Labour conference agreed some welcome changes, writes Michael Calderbank, but there is still much further to go
Dipesh Pandya speaks to documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who for 30 years has been working outside the mainstream to tell a story rooted in the struggles of those excluded by India’s militarism and its narrative of neoliberal growth
Jeremy Gilbert on how radical Labour politics can be inspired by the utopianism of the counterculture
Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
The people could reach a democratic and non-violent solution if they were freed from US meddling, argues Boaventura de Sousa Santos
A decade after the start of the crash, economic power is in our hands – we must take it, writes Ann Pettifor
Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power
What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains
The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme
Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it
The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going
A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism
Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase
Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields
Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton
Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi
A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain
Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank
Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded
West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens
Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age
Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today
The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics
Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.
Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making
Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show
The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services
With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas
Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world
A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle
Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune
Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali
To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi
Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun