Introducing the Justice Alliance
Friends House, in Euston, was the venue for the inaugural meeting of the newly formed Justice Alliance.
Hosted and arranged by the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association, 50 organisations attended the meeting on 27th June 2013.
This alliance is not about any one group, or about lawyers, it's an alliance brought together by the common threat posed by ongoing and proposed cuts to legal aid, to scope and to access.
Amongst the organisations who attended were groups representing the voluntary sector, campaigning and grass roots organisations, charities, trade unions, Civil and Criminal Lawyers.
Each group had its own valuable story to tell as to how their constituents would be affected by these new proposals and recent cuts. Many were already suffering as a result of recent cuts and withdrawal of access to assistance and representation.
There were common themes raised by the groups such as access to justice, state accountability and that cuts do not mean savings in the long term.
There was a positive and dynamic energy to the meeting and a real feeling of unity of purpose. There were many common concerns which the whole alliance could appreciate and hope to come together to embrace an approach to tackle them together.
Even when the fire alarm went off (no alibi provided yet by Mr Grayling!) sub groups of the meeting continued to plan and define the role of the Alliance.
The meeting focussed on what we are as an organisation, our collective aims and actions we can take moving forward.
Agreeing anything in a group is hard, particularly when 50 organisations are represented, but there was a vibe from all to move this Alliance on and to agree our terms of reference.
A focussed discussion on action to be taken highlighted several key areas: An event on 30th July 2013 to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of legal aid. A sub group was set up to work on press and social media. A group was set up to collate and build up case studies.
Many groups offered resources to help the Alliance to grow. A website was discussed and press releases etc.
This meeting was arranged at short notice and yet 50 organisations were represented, it is likely the Alliance will grow and have a bigger voice and influence in the debates concerning access to justice.
We live in a world where the accountability of the state is never out of the public eye. Only this week we have heard about secret courts and the concerning allegations that the police tried to smear the Lawrence family and record confidential meetings and spy on civil liberties lawyers including members of the LCCSA! The establishment of an alliance such as this is long overdue. It is hoped we can create a body that can protect the rights of the individual, the vulnerable and the exploited.
It was a very exciting meeting to be involved in; the Alliance has been created; now the work must begin.