Lawyers from Hackney Community Law Centre join legal aid cuts demo

MP Diane Abbott speaking at the demo

MP Diane Abbott speaking at the demo - Credit: Archant

Lawyers from Hackney Community Law Centre (HCLC) joined thousands of barristers and solicitors working on publicly funded cases for a half-day walkout outside Westminster Magistrates’ Court over further cuts to legal aid.

Louise Christian (centre) at the demo

Louise Christian (centre) at the demo - Credit: Archant

HCLC patron, human rights solicitor and Stoke Newington resident, Louise Christian, and MP Diane Abbott took part in the protests which took place all over the country, aimed at forcing Justice Secretary Chris Grayling into a last-minute rethink of proposals designed to slash legal aid fees by up to 30 per cent and save £220m a year.

Ms Christian warned there could be an increase in miscarriages of justice because of the proposed cuts.

‘These cuts, and the cuts to civil legal aid, mean that people without money don’t have access to the courts,’ she said.

“Every advance that I’ve seen throughout my legal career is now being set back.”

Meanwhile Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington said Britain needs a justice system that is “free for all.”

She said: “I do not say that our legal system is perfect, I do not say that all lawyers are perfect, but time and time again legally aided lawyers have been able to get justice for people of all communities.

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“That’s why we have to keep up with this campaign.”

Chair of HCLC Ian Rathbone, said the centre in Lower Clapton Road has already witnessed the “”awful damage being caused to Hackney people by the legal aid cuts in housing, welfare law and immigration cases.”

“There is considerable concern that we are going to see a two-tier justice system - those who can afford to pay will pay, leaving the poor to be represented by increasingly inexperienced and poorly paid lawyers,” he warned.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said the legal aid system costs £2 billion annually and is one of the most expensive in the world.

“It would remain very generous even after reform,” he said.

“Latest figures show more than 1,200 barristers judged to be working full time on taxpayer funded criminal work received £100,000 each in fee income last year, with six barristers receiving more than £500,000 each.”