Interview: Maggie Tuttle on families access to children in care

Creative Commons courtesy of pawpaw67

Creative Commons courtesy of pawpaw67

Maggie Tuttle has been campaigning for the rights of families with children in care for many years. As she continues to fight for increased access to her own grandson, she know all too well the pain this separation can cause for families.

Here, Maggie tells L.A.W how she thinks the cuts have impacted on families fights for justice. She believes that having to use McKenzie friends and new guidelines for quicker settlement of care proceedings are stacking the odds even higher against families.

                                                                   Click to play audio interview with Maggie Tuttle

Click to play audio interview with Maggie Tuttle

Maggie campaigns for Children Screaming To Be Heard.

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What about the victims?

The past few months have been busy here at Legal Aid Watch – we’ve live-blogged the lawyers’ protests, analysed data in order to give you exclusive reports, and spoken to a range of charities concerned about access to justice.  But there’s still one side to this debate that needs to be heard.

How might victims of crime feel about cuts to legal aid?  What about the families whose relatives have been murdered – do they think the cuts to legal aid are fair?

You might remember Baronness Doreen Lawrence – the mother of murdered teenager, Stephen Lawrence – being at the lawyers’ walk-out.  The family’s lawyer Imran Khan said in a Guardian article that he would have been reluctant to take on the family’s case if today’s legal aid cuts applied.

But for Jean Taylor, founder of Families Fighting for Justice, it’s a different story.

Jean Taylor, Founder of Families Fighting for Justice (credit: FFFJ website)

Jean Taylor, Founder of Families Fighting for Justice (credit: FFFJ website)

We started off by asking her what it’s like to suddenly find yourself in the courts, trying to understand lawyers and the legal system while the suspect sits in the dock.

“It’s like being hit by a bulldozer,” she says.

Listen to our audio interview with FFFJ here:

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Lawyers have been creaming extortionate amounts of money from appeal cases for far too long – Jean Taylor, Founder, Families Fighting for Justice

Jean lost a sister in 1998, a son in 2000 and a daughter in 2004 all to the acts of homicide.

In an audio interview with Legal Aid Watch, Jean says that the legal aid system “has been abused for far too long”.   Speaking out against prisoners who plead guilty, but then go on to appeal the length of their sentence using legal aid, she said that she had “no sympathy” for lawyers and their claims that legal aid cuts would hit their salaries.

Lawyers, she says, have been “creaming extortionate amounts of money” from appeal cases for far too long.

Victims and their families are secondary within the system, Jean says.  If a victim’s family needs access to the court transcripts, they must come up with over £1000 themselves.  A prisoner meanwhile, has all the information he needs thanks to legal aid.  “It’s wrong,” she says.

Moreover, savings made by cuts to legal aid for the perpetrators could be put back into helping the victims of crimes, she said.

Legal aid: Student views

As fees for legal aid work continue to be reduced, will the next generation of lawyers be put off working in the sector? Legal Aid Watch spoke to law students from across England and Wales to find out how those looking to enter the profession are responding to the cuts.

Watch the action from the Grayling Day protest!

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Highlights from the protest on March 7, 2014, featuring interviews with Camilla Graham Wood and Russell Fraser from Justice Alliance.

Camilla warned of the implications of legal aid cuts and government accountability: “In a democratic society, we should be able to hold these organisations to account and legal aid is a key way that people have been able to do that”.

Russell spoke of the potential miscarriages of justice that could arise: “We should as a society want to be confident when someone is sent to prison that they’re actually guilty”.

Legal aid cuts will make the Home Office less accountable

Alison Harvey, Legal Director of the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association (ILPA), speaks about the impact of the legal aid cuts.

Harvey outlines how proposals including the residence test and funding for judicial review will limit access to justice.

“If the Home Office…becomes a less transparent department that makes less quality decisions …that will affect you and the society you live in if the government can get away with actions unchallenged”.

Listen to the 3 minute audio slideshow here.

*Images taken from Flickr creative commons and Google images labelled for reuse

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Legal Aid Watch interviews: Frances Crook, prison reform campaigner

Prisoners’ rights campaigner Frances Crook says children in custody have lost a crucial lifeline as legal aid is cut back.

Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, slams the legal aid shakeup as “short-sighted” and “unjust”  in an interview with Legal Aid Watch at an anti-cuts protest in London.

Hear the interview and watch a slideshow of the protest below, where the campaigner explains how reforms could lead to a rise in homelessness, crime and destitution among the young.

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