We are very pleased to announce that on Thursday 5 June 2014 we will be launching the new Justice Alliance film made by Tiger Nest Films, as part of our fight to save legal aid. We will be launching it at the Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year Awards, in London.
As you may have read, Stephen Fry, Tamsin Greig and Jo Brand all appear in the film. They talk about why they support the campaign to save legal aid – alongside a number of ordinary people who were forced to rely on legal aid, after being struck by disasters they could not have foreseen.
One person featured in the film is Vivian, cousin of Jean Charles De Menezes. Jean was shot dead by police at Stockwell tube station in 2005. His family had to rely on legal aid in their campaign to get truth and justice. As his parents are not resident in the UK, they would be excluded from legal aid under the government’s proposed “residence test” – part of proposals set out in April 2013. At the first Justice Alliance rally in July 2013, another of Jean’s cousins joined speakers to highlight the devastating impact of the proposed cuts.
In September 2013, after receiving 16,000 responses criticising the proposals, including the residence test, the government said that exceptional funding exists for inquests like that used in the De Menezes’ case. However, the exceptional funding scheme has been subject to intense criticism both by charities and politicians. Further, what is less well known is that for the family of Jean Charles De Menezes, legal aid was not required for the inquest alone.
Getting to the truth when the state is involved in a death of this nature is not a straightforward matter. The police, under great scrutiny from the public, sought to justify their actions. Jean’s family’s lawyer had to bring two judicial reviews challenging aspects of the investigation (including the refusal to prosecute anyone), and make formal complaints about police conduct (including one about the police leaking false information to the press). They also brought a civil claim. These crucial elements of the family’s campaign for justice are not covered by inquest exceptional funding.
So despite the government’s suggestion that the De Menezes family would not have been affected by the cuts, that’s simply not the case and we still need to fight for legal aid.
Do you want to live in a society where an innocent man can be shot on the tube and his family be left not knowing what happened? If you have not yet signed the petition then you can do so here:
You will be able to watch the film on the Justice Alliance You Tube channel from Friday 6 June 2014, when we will also outline more about the people featured in it. Remember, these are your rights the government is taking away, and you never know whether you might need to rely on legal aid one day. Vivian and her family never thought they would need to.
Photographs by Tom Elkins @threepractices