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UK Uncut roadblocks: all go for October 5. Save legal aid!

Roadblock protests will go ahead this weekend, campaign group UK Uncut have confirmed, as the Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, reiterated plans to slash legal aid in his speech to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.

UK Uncut spokesperson Jim Thompson said: “The government’s proposals will destroy legal aid, blocking access to justice for all but the rich. Changes announced at the beginning of September do not alter the government’s fundamental assault on the foundations of the democratic system through these proposals.”

He continued: “The government has refused to listen to the clear opposition to these changes, so it’s time to fight back. UK Uncut’s Roadblocks for Justice protests will happen as planned on October 5th. We know that this will be disruptive. We know that it will stop the traffic. But we know that this kind of direct action works.”

The activists plan for roadblocks in London and around the UK, and have enlisted the support of other direct action groups, including Disabled People Against the Cuts, Plane Stupid and Fuel Poverty Action [1, 2, 3]. The protest groups explain that their actions would be “symbolically highlighting the devastating effect the changes will have on access to justice”. [4]

The government’s reforms have come under increasing criticism, with England’s most senior family judge recently describing them as ‘disconcerting’ and suggesting that ‘something needs to be done’ [5]. In July, the government was forced to backtrack on a key part of the reforms, that of removing the right of legal aid defendants to choose their solicitor, following protests [6].

The government claims that changes will improve efficiency in the legal system [7], but this claim has been challenged by research showing that the estimated £6m savings will be dwarfed by £30m in knock-on costs [8].

Sarah Price of UK uncut said “The changes in legal aid are an assault on the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. By insisting on these so-called ‘cuts’ the government takes away our ability to challenge their decisions, allowing them to cut deeper and without legal challenge.”

Lynn Jacobs, a UK uncut supporter said “I will be supporting this action because I have already seen the impact of legal aid changes. I fled an abusive relationship and was not sure what to do to protect myself. Because of the changes to legal aid I could not afford get a court order to protect myself from my ex-partner. I feel sad that the government does not want to help to protect me, and women like me, from violence. Why can’t the government make companies pay their fair share instead of punishing people like me?”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

[1] http://dpac.uk.net/

[2] http://www.planestupid.com/  

[3] http://fuelpovertyaction.org.uk/

[4] http://www.ukuncut.org.uk/blog/october-5th-join-uk-uncut-to-save-justice

[5] These comments were made in a recent court case and are recorded as part of the official transcript. See http://www.marilynstowe.co.uk/2013/08/23/family-division-president-says-legal-aid-cuts-disconcerting...

[6] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-23132233

[7] https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/transforming-legal-aid

[8]  http://legalaidchanges.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/nick-armstrong-costing-the-civil-legal-aid-propos...

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From UK Uncut

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