Law Society Legal News Summary 20 June 2022

Criminal courts backlog 

Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce was on GB News this morning to discuss the impact of the criminal courts backlog on victims, witnesses and defendants.

 This follows an Observer story which found that over 5,800 victims of sexual offences and violent crime are enduring delays of at least a year for their cases to be heard. 

Read our press release on the Crown Court backlog

Rwanda removal challenges

Vice president Lubna Shuja spoke to BBC Newsnight (from 07:26) about why legal challenges are important in a democracy to make sure government is following laws passed by parliament, in relation to the Rwanda removals flight. 

Read our press release outlining concerns about the Rwanda scheme

Attacks on lawyers 

The Guardian runs an in-depth piece examining the Prime Minister’s approach to the law and justice. 

Ellie Cumbo, our head of public law, tells the paper the job of the lord chancellor – currently Dominic Raab, the deputy prime minister – is a “constitutional grey area” when it comes to how far he should go in sticking up for the judiciary. 

She said every time inflammatory language around judges, immigration decisions or judicial review are challenged, the UK government appears to take an approach of “ramping up those accusations and misleading rhetoric” rather than dampening it down. 

Roll on Friday covers our joint statement with the Bar Council where we condemned the PM’s attacks on lawyers. 

“It is misleading and dangerous for the prime minister to suggest lawyers who bring such legal challenges are doing anything other than their job and upholding the law. Anyone at risk of a life-changing order has a right to challenge its legality with the assistance of a lawyer, who has a duty to advise their client on their rights. 

“The Bar Council and Law Society of England and Wales together call on the Prime Minister to stop attacks on legal professionals who are simply doing their jobs.”

Electronic tagging for asylum-seekers 

Sue Willman, chair of our human rights committee, spoke with the New York Times (£), Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, MSN and LBC (from 00:14:50), about human rights concerns over the UK government’s 12-month trial to make asylum-seekers wear electronic tags. 

She said: “The amount of suffering that can be caused to someone who is a torture survivor or who is mentally ill far outweighs the very minimal benefits for the government. The person is being effectively surveilled 24/7 — while they’re on the toilet, while they’re in bed.” 

She called the measure “entirely disproportionate” in its harm, citing a recent government figure that “only 1 per cent of people released on bail actually abscond”.

Support Through Court funding at risk 

Support Through Court – a charity which provides practical and emotional support to those navigating the court system alone – is at risk of having its core funding from the Ministry of Justice cut at the end of the month. 

I. Stephanie Boyce told the Guardian: “Cuts to legal aid have left more and more people having to represent themselves in court as litigants in person. What they most need is legal advice and representation, but Support Through Court provides practical and emotional support that can help them through stressful court hearings. 

“It would be another blow to people trying to navigate the justice system if state funding were removed for this important service.”

SRA continues to pursue increase in fining powers 

Solicitors Journal reports our concern about the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) plans to increase its fining powers by more than 1000%, as we respond to the SRA’s 2022/2023 business plan and budget consultation. 

I. Stephanie Boyce said: “We are particularly disappointed the SRA is continuing to seek to increase its fining powers by more than 1,000 per cent without balancing these changes with appropriate safeguards. 

“Similarly, we do not support the SRA’s proposals of new regulatory powers to address issues around wellbeing, as these changes are not supported by evidence. 

“We are keen to continue close engagement with the SRA in these areas, providing insights informed by our members’ views and experiences to ensure the SRA’s proposals are evidence-led, robustly impact assessed, fair and proportionate.” 

Read our press release

Also worth a read: 

  • Rail strike: Commuters set to face biggest rail strike in 30 years – BBC
  • Support Through Court: Hear from Britons facing court alone – Guardian
  • Criminal legal aid fees set to rise in September, says Cartlidge – Gazette
  • Buckland says AG at risk of prioritising politics over law – i News
  • Lord Sumption criticises ECHR ruling over Rwanda removals – Daily Mail
  • Consumer takes BA to court over cancelled flight and won – Telegraph (£)

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