Meeting in London
1. Welcome and introduction
2. Justice in the dock
Jodie Blackstock, Director of Criminal Justice at JUSTICE told us about JUSTICE's In The Dock report. The report considers the use of the dock in criminal trials, and the impact of this on the defendant's right to a fair trial.
She talked of international uses of the dock, and jurisdictions which have chosen to eradicate the dock in criminal trials. The idea is supported by the Lord Chief Justice, although many legal practitioners are against.
She spoke of how the function of the dock has to be security, and observing the defendant, however JUSTICE's report puts forward that its current style is disproportionate, interferes with the rights of defendant, of their effective participation in their own trial, and the presumption of innocence. JUSTICE believes number of trials needing this level of security is quite low.
JUSTICE asks that lawyers make applications to judges to ask their defendant to be seated next to them in criminal trials. There is currently no guidance for judges for applications for defendants to be sat with their lawyers, however JUSTICE asks that criminal lawyers make these applications in procedural hearings particularly when the defendant is on bail, and financial cases etc, as to the risks the defendant may pose and the necessity of the dock. You can join their LinkedIn group which has examples of people's efforts.
You can read the report here.
3. Exceptional case funding: judgment by the Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal on 20 May handed down judgment in PLP's challenge to the Exceptional Case Funding scheme. In a 2:1 majority judgment, the Court of Appeal found that scheme has problems, but is lawful. The administrative court had held that the scheme was unlawful. In the judgment, it was held that unfairness has a high threshold, and it is important to distinguish the difference between a bad scheme, and one which operates badly. It said that the Administrative Court hadn't shown how the scheme's bad elements amounted to systemic failure. In a dissenting judgment, Briggs would have found it unlawful, as applications are complex to require legal assistance, and it is an inherent flaw that lawyers can't get paid unless applications are successful, meaning they may simply not make applications.
There is no news currently as to whether PLP will appeal the judgment to the Supreme Court.
We also spoke of how Howard League's challenge meant that the Lord Chancellor conceded that applications for funding for out of scope prison matters can be made via Exceptional Case Funding.
4. Labour Party legal aid review
YLAL has now submitted its response, which can be read here.
We believe that the commission will publish interim review in autumn this year, then its full review next year.
Sign up to YLAL Campaigns if you want to get involved.
5. The residence test: judgment by the Supreme Court
You may know that the Supreme Court held that the test was unlawful on the first day of a two day hearing. No full judgment has yet been handed down, but we will update you when it has. It features on pages 4 & 5 in Legal Action this month (June 2016).
6. YLAL outside London
A meeting was held in Sheffield on 15 June 2016 on Hillsborough and Orgreave.
A meeting in Liverpool was held on 30 June 2016, on Hillsborough.
APPG on Legal Aid, next meeting is on 12 July from 4:30-5:30 at Portcullis House. Special guest is Minister for Legal Aid Shailesh Vara. You can sign up using the Eventbrite link here.
Please sign up for our mentoring scheme by emailing us.
July meeting was going to be legal aid career-focused, however, we will now be having an exciting session on campaigning for Access to Justice. Further information is on our meetings page here. We hope to see you there on Wednesday 13th July.