Attendees: Aine Kervick, Rosie Campbell, Sam Elliott, Frances McCormack, Tara Mulcair, Nathan Scott, John Briant, Ornina Kassem, Richard Bottomly, Gimhani Eriyagolla, Louise Eardley, Kate Smith, Phil Armitage, Rachel Francis, Oliver Carter, Helen Jackson, Anastasia Solopova, Subashini Nathan, Maia Cohen-Lask
Rachel welcomed everyone to the meeting. She gave a brief introduction to YLAL, our campaigning efforts, sub groups and YLAL outside of London. Everyone introduced themselves.
Criminal Legal Aid
Aine gave an update on criminal legal aid. A full update is available on our website here.
YLAL has been invited to attend the Law Society Crime Practitioner Group meetings. If members have any concerns about criminal law practice please email us speak to Aine at one our monthly meetings. to let her know for her to feed back into the group. We will send an email update following each of the meetings.
We discussed the recent award of criminal contracts. John commented that it seems to be random how the contracts are awarded, particularly if you had stock answers because of multiple bids. Kaim Todner put down Westminster for extradition but they are the only place that does it, and they were penalized.
Following discussion about criminal advocacy standards, Rachel explained that YLAL has recently responded to the Bar Standards Board Consultation on the Future of Training for the Bar. Our consultation response can be found here. We have requested a meeting with the BSB to discuss the unique perspective offered by YLAL and will keep members informed of any updates on this.
Following the recent successful appeal by the Lord Chancellor against the decision of the High Court that the proposed residence test for civil legal aid is unlawful, The Public Law Project has made an application for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court and requested a protective costs order.
For the history of the residence test litigation, including an article by YLAL co-chair, Oliver Carter, see our news update.
“Voices for Justice” - Justice Alliance rally
Members who attended the “Voices for Justice” rally described it as a massive success. Owen Bowcott, legal correspondent for The Guardian, wrote about the rally here.
YLAL co-chair Oliver Carter also wrote an article on the rally for The Justice Gap, which can be found here.
Solicitors Regulation Authority consultation on Solicitors Qualifying Exam: “Training for Tomorrow: assessing competence”
Gimhani spoke about the SRA consultation on the proposed new centralised assessment, following the September meeting with Julie Brannan from the SRA. The main points are that: the new assessment is for everyone no matter what their route to qualification, it will cover a range of areas of law, it is likely that the employer will have to pay, and that the LPC and PSC would no longer be mandatory, but candidates could undertake them if they choose.
We will be responding to the consultation and would be grateful for volunteers to assist in preparing our response. If you would like to volunteer please get in touch by email.
All Party Parliamentary Group on Legal Aid
YLAL jointly organises the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Legal Aid with the Legal Aid Practitioners Group. The APPG is a group of MPs who meet regularly in Parliament to debate legal aid issues. The sub-group helps to steer the group, choose topics for debate and organise speakers for the meetings. It is also coordinates some of our other lobbying of parliamentarians on specific issues related to legal aid. The APPG website is here.
If you would like to get involved in the APPG subgroup and with helping to run the APPG meetings please email us.
YLAL outside of London
Rachel updated on YLAL outside of London. She explained there are groups in Bristol, Kent, Newcastle, Midlands, Manchester/Sheffield, Liverpool.
There is an inaugural meeting of YLAL South West in Bristol in February. YLAL Manchester are also having an informal meeting.
YLAL blogs: View from the Gravy Train and Thanks 2 Legal Aid
Gimhani explained about our two YLAL blogs: Thanks 2 Legal Aid and View from the Gravy Train. We are seeking new submissions for our blogs and for people to promote the blogs on social media. Please do click the links and get involved.
Labour Legal Aid Review
Rachel explained that Jeremy Corbyn has appointed Lord Bach and Karl Turner MP to conduct a comprehensive review of legal aid. The launch of the review in November was attended by Jeremy Corbyn, the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, Lord Bach, Karl Turner and Lord Falconer. YLAL co-chair, Oliver Carter, wrote this article about the launch of the review.
Oliver said that Jeremy Corbyn said he wanted to reverse the cuts, which is presumably about bringing areas of law back into scope. John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, confirmed that Labour is looking at legal aid policy from first principles, not just what the budget for it should be. Lord Bach has appointed a commission of experts to assist with the review. The first meeting of the commission is next week (19 January) and the commission includes YLAL founder Laura Janes, Joanne Cecil, Bill Waddington, and about 8 or 9 other experts.
John asked in light of stuff going on with the doctors and the public impact and engagement with junior doctors, is there no one we can engage with in terms of the fat cat vs legal aid perception the public have of us. In that it is just the same as the NHS, when we need it we want it to be effective and working. Aine said Justice Alliance have been doing this, it just needs to be repeated.
Ollie asked that people let us know if they have media contacts. It’s just the reality that parts of the media are hostile to legal aid and human rights and it is a battle to break through public conscience.
Subashini feels that the most effective time with public opinion was when criminal practitioners did no returns. She said that direct action and pressure gets media attention. When you do something as a big mass movement, it doesn’t reach media. The things that reach the media are the horror stories.
Rosie commented that people have been enjoying the Medway Panorama documentary in that it received a lot of attention. Maia said we are part of same movement of change with doctors, teachers etc. The Guardian might publish it, but we are preaching to the choir. Ollie suggested we could do a joint article with BMA and NUT.
Rachel said we need ideas on accessing the media who are not with us, and politicians we could work on. Please get in touch if you have ideas.