One of the most remarkable aspects of the current government proposals to cut criminal legal aid funding has been the highly energetic and organised level of campaigning . I tweeted last month that criminal defence lawyers are tweeting and blogging like there is no tomorrow. Every day a several fresh articles are blogged each as persuasive as the last, to the extent you wonder how on earth these proposals can make any logical sense.
As soon as the consultation was launched, the LCCSA launched a sub group to mount the opposition of not just their own members, but criminal defence lawyers across London. Aside from the four local area meetings that attended by a total of over 250 lawyers, the sub group, a cross section of those who work in what Grayling would describe as the legal aid industry , have been using their collective skills and contacts to ensure that this is the formidable campaign it has become.
Between 2006-2009, I had been involved in several similar campaigns but none quite like this. Sadly, we are without Neil Baxter, partner at BBM who despite the health issues which were to subsequently lead to his passing away in only his 40th year, was very much a force behind these campaigns. Neil would travel across London mobilising people not just in the South West but throughout the Capital. Neil would be an ever present at campaign meetings to which he brought a personable and friendly style that encouraged many others to be involved. At Neil's funeral service his Partners, Richard Brown and Andrew McArthur, referred in their Eulogies to his dedicated work in the fight against (then new labour) cuts in legal aid.
The cuts came and we are still here, to fight another government that knows despite the potential threat to uk Justice we are an easy target for cuts that voters won't miss. Grayling's quote in Monday's Times that (sic) criminals are not connoisseurs of legal services, is demonstrative of this view.
We are here because, despite the recurring fear and threats that we face when we meet these challenges, we have a spirit that fights and continues to campaign. The spirit of Neil Baxter who was amongst those who set the trail for the anti PCT campaigners of today lives on. Neil would have loved to have tweeted, lobbied and simply worked all hours to SaveUKjustice.
As Neil's coffin went along the conveyor belt, and the doors closed behind it, the sombre mood of those assembled at the funeral was lifted as the PA boomed out the words of Fat Boy Slim - "We've come a long long way together" .....(indeed )