Monday, 8 April 2013

Legal Aid and Magna Carta

England is justifiably proud of the 'Magna Carta', the charter that King John was forced to grant (he did not sign it, but attached the Royal Seal) by his barons at Runnymede 798 years ago this June. A paper on the University of Lincoln's website states -

"For Whipps (2008) Magna Carta is a document that has changed the world. This iconic manuscript,  drawn up originally in the 13th century to contain the power of an English  king, is seen by many commentators today as representing the cornerstone of civil liberties around the globe (West 2008). Its famous clause 39, that no one man shall be imprisoned without judgement of peers, or by the law of the land, is often quoted in contemporary political and legal debates about civil liberties (Bennett et al 2007)."

One of its most important provisions states -

"No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled . nor will we proceed with force against him . except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land. To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice."

It is in the light of the final sentence that I invite you to reflect upon the coming into force of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 last week. Further restrictions are set to be announced this week. The Legal Action Group say "Good quality, accessible publicly funded legal services are essential to ensuring access to justice. "Is 'justice' now out of the reach of the very people who need it most?

Details of the changes can be found on the websites of
The Guardian
The Law Society

What do you think?