Garden Court criminal defence barrister Sam Parham last night joined a panel discussion at the Palace of Westminster on access to justice in the age of austerity.
Sitting alongside Andy Slaughter MP (Shadow Minister for Justice), Lucy Scott-Moncrieff (Scott-Moncrieff & Associates and former Chair of the Law Society), Chris Henley QC (Carmelite Chambers) and Lucinda Wicks (Coram Chambers), Sam highlighted the disastrous effect that the legal aid cuts will have on access to justice for years to come.
Emphasising that the next few years will be bleak for those who care about access to justice for all, especially for the weak and vulnerable, Sam stated that the current Government has “redefined justice as a commodity rather than a fundamental right.”
“This is about something much more important than lawyers’ livelihoods: it is about providing excellent representation for those who cannot afford to pay.”
Such sentiments were echoed by Lucinda Wicks, who stated that legal aid lawyers are doing their best to bolster a “very broken system.”
The event, organised by the Young Labour Lawyers, also provided the opportunity for a rallying cry for unity in the legal profession, with Sam highlighting:
“If criminal solicitors and barristers maintain unity, we have the power to force the government back to the negotiating table.”
In solidarity with solicitors, who are currently facing a further tranche of cuts, barristers’ sets up and down the country, including Garden Court, are taking action. Last week, the Garden Court Crime Team announced that it would not be undertaking any new cases where the representation order is dated after 1 July 2015. Yesterday, the Team unanimously called for a ‘yes’ vote in the Criminal Bar Association ballot, in favour of the implementation of a ‘No Returns’ policy with immediate effect from 15 July. The fight to #SaveLegalAid continues.