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News Round-Up Week Ending 10.7.15

(Posted on 10/07/15)

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News Round-Up Week Ending 10.7.15

Legal Aid Boycott ‘Causing Chaos’:

Lawyers have told the BBC that their protest is disrupting court hearings and prisoners are being released from police custody before interview due to the lack of solicitors.

The Ministry of Justice said courts were proceeding as usual.

“The Victoria Derbyshire programme attended a court case in the north of England where a number of defendants were forced to represent themselves in a hearing involving serious allegations of child sexual exploitation,” the BBC reported. “When questioned by the judge one of the accused replied, ‘without a solicitor I don't know what to say or what to do’.”

"We continuously endeavour to reduce the time individuals spend in custody in order to provide a more efficient service," a spokesman for South Yorkshire Police said. "Any delays in legal advice are directly contrary to these goals and the welfare of the people who ask for their service."

"We are hearing stories from around the country whereby people are not being represented, people are being remanded into custody, people are having decisions made in relation to cases that ordinarily if lawyers were involved those decisions wouldn't be made," Oliver Gardner of the Criminal Law Solicitors Association said.

"We're not prepared to put our clients - the people who need this service - at risk of miscarriages of justice by acting when we're not properly resourced and doing a substandard job. It's the government that is putting people in this position, not us."

An MoJ statement responded: "The courts have been sitting as usual and the vast majority of cases requiring a solicitor at the police station have been picked up within an hour.

"Although the transition will be challenging, the changes we are pressing ahead with are designed to ensure we have a system of criminal legal aid that delivers value for money to taxpayers, that provides high quality legal advice to those that need it most, and that puts the profession on a sustainable footing for the long term.

"Having listened carefully to the case put by the profession we decided not to reduce advocacy fees, but instead to work closely with them to explore alternative ways of securing these savings."

Sexual abuse of children has left ‘scars’ on victims and society

Justice Lowell Goddard has opened the long-expected independent inquiry, which could last until 2020, with suggestions that one child in 20 has been sexually abused.

Justice Goddard said the sexual abuse of children "has left permanent scars not only on successive generations, has left permanent scars not only on victims themselves, but on society as a whole.

"This inquiry provides a unique opportunity to expose past failures of institutions to protect children, to confront those responsible, to uncover systemic failures... and to make recommendations that will help prevent the sexual abuse and exploitation of children in the future."

The BBC reported that, “as she was giving her statement, the office of Attorney General Jeremy Wright QC confirmed that immunity from prosecution under the Official Secrets Act will be offered to current or former public servants prepared to testify about allegations of child sex abuse. It will not protect anyone who admits taking part in child sexual abuse.”