Arthur Critchlow, a striking miner arrested at Orgreave coking plant during the Miners' Strike, explained how crucial legal aid was for strikers:
After Orgreave when Gareth Peirce came to see all of us miners in the police station, she said it was like a war zone, a battlefield with all the injured miners. We were covered in blood.
I had severe injuries. The blood from my head wound, after a policeman had hit me, had run down my back, down my legs and was pooled in my socks.
It was only because Gareth demanded it that we got medical attention. We didn’t have a prayer otherwise—and neither will other working class people who come under attack by the police.
I was remanded in Armley Prison in Leeds. How would I have appealed for bail? I’d never heard of “judging chambers” in my life.
What would a working class person know about appealing to the judging chambers at the Old Bailey?
Can you imagine most people trying to figure it all out? I’ve got a secondary school education, I’d never have been able to stand up in court to an educated barrister.
At Orgreave, the defence team for the miners would have been absolutely unaffordable.
With the charges that we faced and the lies that were submitted by the police, unless we had the defence team that we did we would have been given the maximum sentence. That was life imprisonment. I have no doubt about that.
Legal aid is of paramount importance. Working class people, if they find themselves on the wrong side of the law, will find it impossible to find legal representation because you simply can’t afford it.
The principle is the same, access to education, healthcare and access to defence. Cameron can afford to hire a top class barrister. When I hear them say “we’re all in it together” it is very clear we are not.
It’s extremely scary what’s happening. We’re talking about basic human rights here. It’s appalling. It’s a plan to take people’s defence away, so they think twice about going on a protest.
People won’t attend rallies for fear of being arrested and having no one decent to represent them. It’s an attack on the right to protest. It’s all cut, cut, cut, cut, with the Tories. I’ve had a ten percent cut in my wages, while MPs are supposed to get a pay rise. Something needs to give.