Legal Aid Gap - Glyn Maddocks is coming to get you! The withdrawal of legal aid has indeed been like a
cancer, undetected at first other than a general feeling of malaise, then some unusual symptoms popping up in different places - first some strange mutations in litigation funding appearing on the scene, deregulation paving the way for conditional fee arrangements and a whole new array of insurance-backed litigation products; then some odd metamorphoses in the rules as to who is licensed to conduct litigation and run cases and how their businesses are allowed to be structured. No longer a requirement for "expensive" solicitors working in tag-teams with "pricey" barristers, supposedly offering cheaper options to the public, but in reality creating huge risks they won't be properly represented. Finally, a diagnosis: a worrying justice gap created by the withdrawal of Legal Aid and anyone unable to afford legal advice will just have to do without. The surgeon is told to cut a further £220 million of fat from the already slimmed down body on the operating table, slicing away layers of "duplication" and taking the scalpel to "unnecessary expense". He doesn't realize he's in fact cutting into muscle. The body lies inert and butchered now, in front of him, and certainly no nearer a cure. Surely a clinical negligence action waiting to happen.... If only anyone could afford to sue!
Against this backdrop, campaigning lawyer Glyn Maddocks has launched a charity to help plug part of the gaping hole in our British justice system left by the withdrawal of Legal Aid. The Centre for Criminal Appeals (CCA) will provide a not-for-profit solution to the shortage of both legal representation and effective investigation for criminal appeals and miscarriage of justice cases and will attempt to make viable otherwise non-remunerative cases that currently only financially reckless lawyers are prepared to take on. The CCA will cover the overheads of its lawyers and will work as part of a multi-disciplinary team involving investigators and other appropriate experts.
Glyn is a highly experienced criminal solicitor at Gabb & Co in Wales and aside from his campaigning is perhaps most famous for his role in the Paul Blackburn case, a man imprisoned for attempted murder at the age of 15 for 25 years, for a crime he did not commit. Criminal convictions are notoriously difficult to get overturned and Glyn worked tirelessly for 13 years before the Court of Appeal agreed on fresh evidence that Blackburn's confession had been forged by the police. He was released from court a free man.
"It's this terrible concept of years, even whole lives, wasted in prison that has inspired much of my work over the last 20 years." Glyn has devoted a good portion of his career to miscarriage of justice cases. "I have a real worry that without a proper Legal Aid system, most lawyers qualified for the job just won't be able to afford to take on these time-consuming and expensive cases. And innocent people languishing in prison for crimes they didn't commit will simply fall through this justice gap. The CCA hoped that UK firms and barristers chambers may like to consider doing what their US counterparts have done for many years and provide financial support for initiatives such as the CCA. A few hundred pounds each year from the top 100 firms plus a similar amount from the top chambers would provide long term financial viability and would mean that the cca could concentrate on doing its job of acting for those who have allegedly suffered a wrongful conviction."
So, surely it's good news for British justice that the CCA is here with at least a partial cure?
"We certainly have an important role to play but I wish I could be more upbeat. Should UK victims of miscarriages of justice really have to rely on the efforts of a charity? Is it not sad and embarrassing that this country, where the rule of law has long held sway, cannot itself guarantee access to justice for its citizens?"
Anyone interested in pledging financial or other support for the Centre, either as a one-off donation or as part of an ongoing CSR programme, should make contact
- with Glyn Maddocks by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- via the website: http://www.criminalappeals.org.uk/
- or via webdonate: https://mydonate.bt.com/charities/centreforcriminalappeals
And anyone wishing to donate to Cancer Research's Race for Life can do do here: Cancer - we're coming to get you!
Cure for exam stress: those of you who know Kysen well will be familiar with our daily routines spotting legal newshooks. One in particular struck home more than usual this week. My colleague Adele was working on an education law topic about a Scottish university offering pet therapy for stressed out students, paving the way for lots of legal thought leadership about the duty of education establishments to ease the stress of their pupils. With 16-year-old twins at home, any ideas for combating GCSE-induced stress is gratefully received! The idea of pet therapy received enthusiastic attention at home... but not in fact as much as another choice story from the National Union of Teachers proposing special help in schools for the ranks of "menopausal" middle-aged women who make up such a large proportion of the teaching community. I kid you not: there are formal proposals for more water fountains to help with hot flushes and grouchiness that come with this "special age". I won't tell you how the conversations ran at home, but the phrase "no wonder" was overheard.
One of the most talked about stories in legal circles this week was the 15-million pound wine fraud over "fake" rare vintages. The case, brought by a US property magnate claiming he was duped into buying a rare vintage wine by a Mayfair-based merchant, is taking place in Atlanta, Georgia. Sold on the basis that its grapes were picked before George Washington was elected first US president and costing £10,000 per glass, no wonder the buyer is taking it all the way to court. You couldn't make it up!