The fall out from the demonstrations last Saturday continues. The Guardian reported on the extraordinary behaviour of the Police dealing with the UKUncut protesters at Fortnum & Mason. It may well be that a charge of trespass will be upheld – Fortnum & Mason, it is reported, lost £80,000 in trade, but, so far, of the 149 charges brought against protesters, 139 charges are from the Fortnum & Mason arrests and only 11 from those who committed assaults and acts of criminal damage outside and at other locations. MPs asked the Police for an explanation.
A lawyer at a leading civil liberties firm has expressed fears for the future of direct action protest after the mass arrest of UK Uncut activists during last Saturday’s anti-cuts demonstrations in London.
Matt Foot, a criminal defence solicitor at Birnberg Pierce, said the detention of 145 activists during an occupation of luxury food store Fortnum and Mason in Piccadilly was “unprecedented”. He has questioned the police’s motivation.
It is clear from video footage that the police misled the Fortnum & Mason protesters by telling them they were free to leave and would not be ‘kettled’. It may have been easier for the Police to arrest the protesters outside the ship, rather than inside, but I suspect this action will be a PR disaster for the police in terms of trust from those who protest peacefully?
Mr Raj Chada, a solicitor representing some of the protesters said: “The manner in which these arrests were carried out raises a number of serious questions. Is the act of conducting a peaceful sit-in protest now being treated as a criminal act? ….”
A fair point?
Independent press crucial to the administration of justice, says lord chief justice
Joshua Rozenberg, writing in The Guardian reports: An independent press is crucial to the administration of justice, the lord chief justice of England and Wales said during a lecture in Israel on Monday night. Lord Judge is known to be concerned at the risk of totalitarian governments being voted into power, a view reinforced by his visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the victims of Nazi Germany.
“In a democratic society,” he said in an aside, “who knows what the will of the electorate may produce at any election?”
He added: “The independence of the judiciary and the independence of the media are both fundamental to the continued exercise – and, indeed, to the survival – of the liberties which we sometimes take for granted.”
I cannot imagine that many would disagree with this view. It was interesting to read in The Sun this morning the continuing campaign of bile against lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Ken Clarke,. The Sun has decided (along with The Daily Mail) that the war on drugs has to be won and is vilifying Clarke and The Sentencing Council for the soft approach being taken on sentencing drug dealers with ‘modest’ amounts of drugs; preferring to concentrate on the producers and big dealers.
This prompted Matthew Norman in The Independent to ask if the right wing tabloids are running the country and if ministers will run scared – as they have often done in the past of offending the interests and wishes of the right wing press.
The primary issue here is one of political courage, or rather, its absence under fire. Any politician who dares to stand against the tabloids quickly undares
AND.. I am delighted to give a plug to this conference at the request of fellow twitter user @SundeepBhatia2, who is a pleasure to tweet with.
Minority Lawyers Conference & Awards 2011 “Diversity – Embracing change”
The cost of clamping down on ‘no win, no fee’ legal arrangements
Neil Rose writes in The Guardian: Reform of the litigation system could see claimants lose significant portions of their awards and solicitors reluctant to take on complex cases
Ken Clarke’s announcement on Tuesday that the government is to reform the costs of civil litigation has been portrayed as a crackdown on lawyers’ fees. That always makes a pleasing headline but the reality is that the justice secretary wants the public to do it for him.
The main problem identified by the government and Lord Justice Jackson – the appeal court judge whose report underlies these proposals – is that the current “no win, no fee” system of conditional fee agreements (CFAs) means the client has no interest in how much their lawyer charges, because they will never have to pay any of it.
By making the lawyer’s success fee payable by the client rather than the losing defendant, that will clearly change, and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) expects competition to drive down prices.