On 1 April lawyers, charities and probation officers united to give Justice Secretary Chris Grayling a birthday to remember.
Protesting at controversial plans to privatise probation services, cut Legal Aid and limit access to Judicial Review, the Justice Alliance, a coalition of charities, unions and community groups including Liberty, Unite, The Howard League and Women Against Rape joined the National Association of Probation Officers and lawyers at a rally outside Westminster before marching on the Ministry of Justice shouting “Save Legal Aid” and “Keep Probation Public”.
Speaking at the event David Enright, who played a leading role in the Gurkha Justice Campaign and co-conducted the litigation that won the right to settle in the UK for veteran Gurkha soldiers said:
“Legal Aid was fundamental in winning the landmark Gurkha Veteran’s Residence Test case. Without Legal Aid, Gurkha veterans who served Queen and Country would not have had the right to settle in Britain. My firm and I firmly believe in the right of the individual to access to justice. It is highly unlikely in the present climate of swingeing cuts (and especially the introduction of the residence test) to Legal Aid that the Gurkha Veterans would have been able to see justice in the High Court.”
Filling the streets outside the Ministry of Justice the protesters then sung a personalised rendition of Happy Birthday to Grayling led by musician Tom Robinson.
“HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU
YOU WANT JUSTICE FOR THE FEW
NO MORE JUSTICE FOR THE MANY
ONLY JUSTICE FOR YOU”
Robinson then opened the present to Grayling which was a copy of The Book Thief, in reference to the Minister’s decision to ban books going to prisoners.
A cake was then delivered to the Minister depicting Lady Justice looking down on a gravestone reading RIP JUSTICE
The Justice Alliance believes cuts to Legal Aid will have a devastating effect on the rights of ordinary people and warns that changes to Judicial Review will have a chilling effect on challenging poor government decision-making leading to a situation of state impunity.