The day I saw the damage that legal aid cuts could do
I’ve seen firsthand the injustices that will surely take place under the government’s proposals for legal aid.
Criminal lawyers held a day of “training” last month, as a form of industrial action for legal aid. In my area we agreed that I would be the only duty solicitor covering several police stations.
Those in custody or answering bail had no choice of solicitor—much like what is proposed.
I spent six hours with someone who faced very serious allegations. It took a long time to discuss their background and history.
Their usual solicitor would have known all this, and would have been someone they knew and trusted when they were scared and their liberty was at stake.
Other people were arrested in the same incident and said different things. There would have been a conflict of interest if I tried to represent them all.
One person had to wait more 11 hours in custody without even knowing who would represent them. Another went to interview alone when they heard that their choice of firm wasn’t available.
All this can have a huge impact on trials and sentencing, and I fear it will become commonplace.
The government suggests that some areas will have very few providers—just four for the whole of Surrey or north Yorkshire.
Finding someone else to cover conflicts will be nigh on impossible. People will have to wait longer in custody for a representative from another area.
I pride myself on doing the best for my clients, even after being worked off my feet for 12 hours. But what will it be like with staff on zero hour contracts—overworked and stretched to the max?
Firms will get 17.5 percent lower fees and try to do it with as few staff as they can get away with. Firms such as Eddie Stobart, Tesco and G4S will get the same amount of work whatever their success rate. Will they make sure they have the best of the best?
My day at the station confirmed how wrong with the proposals are.
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Councils must defy the bedroom tax
Leeds City council announced two weeks ago that it would reclassify around 850 properties from five bedrooms to four, so those tenants can avoid the bedroom tax.
The so-called bedrooms were originally dining rooms. This decision is welcome but it still leaves around 9,000 tenancies affected in Leeds alone.
In Hands Off Our Homes in Leeds we think that this is just not good enough.
A handful of councillors have pledged to vote for a policy of no evictions as a result of our campaign.
It will cost councils far more to implement the bedroom tax than it would to ignore it—up to £11,000 per eviction for a few hundred pounds in “rent arrears”.
If all councils challenged the government together the tax could be defeated. We will continue to protest, lobby and say “Can’t Pay, Can’t Move” until we win.
Liz Kitching, Leeds
Humans go back much longer than oppression
I liked your in depth article on life before class and oppression.
It’s important to stress that a communist society is a real possibility and more in harmony with “human nature” than the oppression and competition of today.
But it surprised me that your caption referred to a carving from “as long ago as 21,000 years”. Here in Frankurt we had a wonderful exhibition on the development of humans over 2 million years.
One of the exhibits was of a statue of a woman from 70,000 years ago.
It was smaller than a tennis ball—small enough to be carried during the owners’ wandering lives.
Something quite radical must have been happening, with humans for the first time using language and art to reflect on their condition.
David Paenson, Frankfurt, Germany
Save our science museum!
Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) is threatened with closure due to funding cuts for the National Science Museum group.
The group proposes to close it with two other museums to save the London Science Museum.
Mosi gets nearly 900,000 visitors every year and resistance to closure is building. But we musn’t get sidetracked into “save our museum by closing others” or, as some suggest, by paying admission.
This would just make it harder for ordinary families to take days out. Where are our children supposed to take pleasure in learning if we lose our museums? We must fight to save them all.
Emma Martin, Manchester
Education should be about people, not profit.
When they increased tuition fees it was a horrible move. It keeps commoners like us out of university.
Working class kids face nothing but bleakness, hopes dashed at every opportunity.
Why? So Cameron and his cronies can keep down the oiks and keep up the profits that are all they care about.
Jack Biles, Lancaster
Don’t bank on Labour
A food bank run by Hounslow’s Labour council won’t give food to people with “chaotic lifestyles” or whose benefits have been sanctioned.
I’ll never vote Labour again. Ever.
Ben Murray, by email
A taxing question
How can schemers be prevented from seeking refuge in tax havens?
Are there not wealthy tax avoiders who pay tax only to their yacht?
D Shepherd, North London
Good call for trade unions
I have heard a great deal of criticism of the BBC’s The Call Centre. But characters like bullying boss Nev Wilshire are common.
I think it should be required viewing for new trade union activists.Organising courses could ask, “If you worked there, how would you take on the issues?”
Pat Carmody, North west London
Well done to the anti-racists
I extend my thanks and appreciation to the people who took the time and made the effort to demonstrate against fascists and race haters.
Abiola Jomilogu, on Facebook
The protests were brilliant. We don’t want Nazis anywere in this world, especially when Hitler is rotting in hell.
Rea Pin, on Facebook
Turks aren’t Islamophobic
It’s lazy and inaccurate to describe militant nationalist secularism in Muslim countries as “Islamophobic” (Socialist Worker, 8 June).
Islamophobia was developed by the West to demonise Muslims and justify attacking them.
It is a form of racism. A secular Turk isn’t being racist to a religious Turk when attacking the way they are perceived to mix politics with religion.
Hanif Leylabi, Newcastle-upon-Tyne