Another week, another set of proposed “reforms”. The sweeping attacks on our proud, centuries-old system of open justice and fair trials just keep on coming. First civil legal aid. Then Secret Courts and changes to Judicial Review. Now criminal legal aid has fallen firmly within the Government’s cost-cutting crosshairs.
It’s easy to dismiss the “War on Terror” and all of its excesses as “old news”. Nearly 12 years after the horrors of 9/11, battles over everything from pre-charge detention to ID cards have come and gone. But the statute book is still littered with disproportionate, overzealous police powers which remain ripe for abuse.
As the old adage goes, “never let the truth get in the way of a good story”. Regrettably it’s a mantra closely followed by certain parts of the press when it comes to human rights. Relevant facts and legal nuances are conveniently omitted to fuel angry tirades against the European Convention or Human Rights Act on a regular basis. Remember “Catgate”? Such skewed attacks on proud principles of dignity, equal treatment and fairness are predictable. But the simultaneous reluctance to champion human rights when they protect ordinary people is particularly galling.
Talk of modern day slavery can seem anachronistic – surely this is something that happened long ago and far away – but across the country, vulnerable people still suffer appalling abuse from “employers” they cannot escape. Liberty is acting for one such victim, a woman who not only endured years of physical and verbal abuse and repeated rape, but who was ignored on several occasions by the authorities she sought help from.
Only yesterday we were waxing lyrical about whispers that the Snoopers’ Charter – AKA the Draft Communications Data Bill – was floundering. Today it appears the legislation may have sunk for good. All signs seem to point to Nick Clegg having vetoed the proposals, with reports suggesting the Deputy Prime Minister has told David Cameron and Theresa May they are “unworkable” and “disproportionate”.
Twenty years ago today, Stephen Lawrence was murdered by a gang of racists in London. The teenager was stabbed to death as he waited for a bus in Eltham on the evening of April 22, 1993. The resulting police investigation was tainted by incompetence and institutionalised racism, and the best part of two decades passed before any of the killers were brought to justice. The Metropolitan Police has vowed to catch and prosecute the others involved in Stephen’s murder.
Anne Williams, a leading campaigner in the fight for Hillsborough justice and founder of Hope for Hillsborough, died last night after being diagnosed with cancer in October. We are all the poorer for the loss of her energy and bravery.