Legal Aid

Courts ban badges

PUBLISHED November 25, 2006

Solicitors in Staffordshire have been told to remove legal aid campaign badges or face exclusion from court, it has emerged.

Lawyers arriving at courts in Stoke-on-Trent and elsewhere in the county were informed that the wearing of red and white badges asking ?What Price Justice?? ? the name of the Law Society campaign ? is a ?political statement? and inappropriate for a court of law.

Clerks told Chris Clark, a Law Society Council member and sole practitioner, that they had received instructions from the Courts Service to insist that the badges were taken off. Mr Clark said: ?It?s ironic that I?ve been wearing a red poppy for the last fortnight, honouring those who gave their lives for liberty. I?ve now been told that wearing a badge in favour of one of those liberties, the right to justice, is banned in the England of 2006. And with it has gone my right to freedom of expression.?

Geoff Bell, senior partner at Stevens Solicitors, was also told to stop wearing his badge ? but the chair of the bench relented when Mr Bell pointed out that he was in fact planning to sit in the public area. He said: ?It?s an apolitical campaign aimed at protecting access to justice for all, irrespective of political allegiances.?

A spokeswoman for the Courts Service defended the ban by explaining that ?the campaign was against legislative changes and was therefore, by definition, political?.

Desmond Hudson, Law Society Representation chief executive, said: ?I am surprised that courts are objecting to our members wearing these badges to express their support for an important campaign. I have written to the court to seek an explanation.?