Category Archives: Politics

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Lammy Review-We must NOT be silent

Colour-blind justice? – the long-awaited review by David Lammy MP on race and the criminal justice system released in September concluded that the system discriminates against black, Asian and minority ethnic people.

We already knew that. The disproportionality in outcome between different ethnic groups has been known of and remarked on for as long as I can remember. Nothing meaningful has been done.

Young black people are nine times more likely to be locked up in England and Wales than their white peers, The report delivers some recommendations on how to fix this, some better than others. (See this Summary in the Law Soc Gazette)

The report also noted  that because black defendants distrust the system, they tend to plead not guilty in court – disqualifying themselves from the reduced sentences that can come with an early guilty plea. Lammy calls for deferred prosecutions where suspects can have charges dropped by completing rehabilitation; basing criminal responsibility on a suspect’s maturity rather than age; and wiping the slate clean earlier for young offenders who rehabilitate, so they can get on with finding employment. Lammy, writing in the Guardian, calls for urgent action to implement his recommendations which require political support and legislative action.

But what can lawyers do within the system to combat the ongoing systemic imbalance? The discrimination which underlies these stark statistics is institutionalised, but covert, and as it is never openly expressed remains unchallenged.
We all know what the problem is, but what  are we going to do about it?

Usually, the answer do the question “what do we do” is “nothing”.
We need new answers.

There is already a “trust deficit”. To win back trust, we need to deserve that trust. #WeMustNotStaySilent

We have to talk about Discrimination. Prejudice. Racism.

We have to challenge the Police about their charging decisions.

We need to raise the issue of sentencing disparity in Court. The  Magistrates need to hear it, and our clients need to hear it.

We have become complicit in an unfair Justice system.

To stay silent is no longer good enough.

There was an event for Lawyers to discuss his report on 2 October 2017 at Kings College which David Lammy attended and I chaired. (Panel: Sir Anthony Hooper, DPP Policy Advisor Sara Carnegie, Sandra Paul of KN, Courtney Griffiths QC of 25 Bedford Row and Judy Khan QC of Garden Court)

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A review of the event is here or you can watch a video of  whole thing here

The Lammy Review equips us with the evidence and the stats to challenge injustice, particularly prevalent in the Youth Court.

When appearing in the Youth or Magistrates Court representing a young black defendant, dare we say to the bench in our closing submissions “my client is worried that statistically he is more likely to be convicted, and when convicted sentenced higher, than his white contemporary”? 

Traditionally we would not raise that directly, for fear that we may be thought to be accusing the bench of bias. It is time to stop being afraid.

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Freelance Advocacy Services: News and Advocacy Availability

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NEWS

Grayling still Failing. Chris Grayling wants the UK to grow its own food after Brexit – start planning your cabbage patches now- update on the worst Lord Chancellor ever in this must-read article here. (Sample: “what Grayling said a couple of days ago was every inch as imbecilic as we have learned to expect from his time as the wilfully ignorant, insouciantly callous Justice Secretary who took a sledgehammer to the legal aid and prison systems”

He was also at the new hybrid train service launched which was overcrowded late and wet, and then had a dismal performance before the Transport select committee, both delightfully caricatured here.

Sentencing Young Adults. New guidelines needed! Support the Campaign by Howard League, summarised in Russel Webster’s  Blog

LAWYERS MET LAMMY  Updated blog here. Video footage of the event here

14 hours New discussions with practitioner groups hosted by the Law Society have commenced to see what consensus there is before seeking a meeting with the LAA. The LCCSA are attending, and will reflect member’s views following our member survey. We have set our our views here . There will be a variety of viewpoints-the CLSA President has said that many solicitors support 14 hours but are afraid to speak out in support.

The “Big Firms Group” are also attending, and I am unable to say who their members are or whether they were consulted. I am unable to say more about the discussions as participants have been sworn to secrecy. But I do intend to speak about the 14 hour issue during my address to the CLFS conference next Friday (see below)

LCCSA– I have attended my last committee meeting after serving for 5 years (including as President last year). It has been a privilege, and I hope to remain an active member. I would encourage anyone not already a member to join. Why not join the committee? The AGM dinner is next month and open to all members. See you there?

Archbold or Blackstones -the “Game of Tomes”  My twitter poll and the LCCSA survey showed a marginal practitioner preference (55%) for Blackstones, as reported in the Gazette and the Times.

CLFS Don’t miss the Criminal Law Friendly Society Autumn conference in London on 27th October. Only £75 for a day of law updates and training (trainees go free) Myself and LCCSA President Greg Powell are speaking on “Unity” and “challenges ahead”

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Bike Last month I cycled from London to Paris to raise money for Great Ormond St. Please sponsor me here!

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Lawyer of the Month (October) -Charlotte Watts

Charlotte was the inspiration for and organiser of the event “the Lammy Review- a conversation”.  An outstanding advocate and tenacious fighter for justice, Charlotte is counsel at 2 Hare Court.

A list of lawyers of the Year for 2016 is here, and here is a 2015 list,

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New Lord Chancellor David Lidington

On 11 June 2017 PM Theresa May in a post-election re-shuffle appointed David Lidington as Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor. He replaces Liz Truss,  who had herself been appointed by May in a post-election re-shuffle less than a year before.

Lidington is the fourth consecutive non-lawyer appointment- his predecessors were Liz Truss, Michael  Gove and Grayling (widely regarded as the worst Lord Chancellor ever).  Dominic Raab (courts and justice minister) Phillip Lee and Sam Gyimah ( junior ministers) complete the team.

This blog aims to monitor Lidington’s performance over his term of office.

Background

David Roy Lidington CBE PC (born 30 June 1956) has been MP for Aylesbury since 1992. He was Minister of State for Europe from May 2010 to July 2016, and Leader of the House of Commons.

He was educated at a public school, before studying history at Cambridge (appearing on University Challenge)

He was given a CBE in Cameron’s widely criticised resignation honours list.

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Expenses scandal In May 2009, it was revealed Lidington had claimed £1,300 on expenses for dry cleaning. He also claimed for toothpaste, shower gel, body spray, vitamin supplements and a second home allowance. He repaid the claims for toiletries, saying: “I accept that many people would see them as over-generous.”  So although he eventually came clean you paid for his soap 

Record in Parliament pre-appointment  (Justice issues)

Lidington voted in favour of repealing the Human Rights Act,  restricting the scope of legal aid and limiting fees paid to solicitors in no-win no-fee cases. The “they-work-for-you” website says Lidington generally voted against equal gay rights, and his record on cutting legal aid is here.

Challenges Ahead

The new Lord Chancellor was sworn in on 19 June.  In the in-tray? Read anopen letter to Lord Chancellor from Joshua Rozenberg

Sort out the prison crisis! read these recommendations from the Howard League

His first official pronouncement, following the Grenfell tragedy, was on availability of legal aid in housing cases- and he got it wrong (see here)

There was then a period of calm, in a political period dominated by Brexit, we heard very little from or about the Lord Chancellor until the Party Conference in October when there were apparently conciliatory noises on LASPO reform

 

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Lord Chancellor Liz Truss-a Review of her Term of Office

On 14th July 2016 incoming Prime Minister Theresa May  appointed Liz Truss as the new Secretary of State for Justice (also known as Lord Chancellor).

She lasted less than a year, being demoted by May on 11th June in the re-shuffle that followed the “mandate” election.

Truss took over from Michael Gove,  sacked for his disloyalty and failed leadership bid rather than his performance in post (Gove had replaced the hopeless and reviled Chris Grayling, widely believed to have been the worst Lord Chancellor in living memory)

Truss was the third consecutive non-lawyer to be appointed to the post. Did  that matter? Read the Secret Barrister blog.

This blog reviews Truss’  time in office.

Background-Pre-Justice Secretary

Truss was previously at DEFRA, and perhaps best known for her widely ridiculed Conservative Party conference speech about French cheese and British Pork (footage enjoyed on this clip from Have I Got News For You )  This was followed another much ridiculed Conference speech (October 2015) when she called for a return to “giving animals their proper names”

She co-authored a book (“Brittania unchained“) which accused British workers of laziness :”The British are among the worst idlers in the world. We work among the lowest hours, we retire early and our productivity is poor. Whereas Indian children aspire to be doctors or businessmen, the British are more interested in football and pop music.

Critics who have attempted to engage with her, (according to George Monbiot in The Guardian) have said she is “indissolubly wedded to a set of theories about how the world should be, that are impervious to argument, facts or experience.”

Background

Born: 26 July 1975, in Paisley, Renfrewshire
Constituency: MP for South West Norfolk since 2010
University: read PPE at Merton
Before politics: 10 years as a management accountant, economics director at Cable & Wireless; deputy director of Reform (education think tank)

Truss and Criminal Justice (pre-appointment)

Truss was a member of the Justice Select Committee between March 2011 and November 2012, but apparently only ever spoke about justice issues three times in parliament,one of which was to strongly support cutting the legal aid budget.

On Home Affairs she consistently voted for a stricter asylum system and stronger enforcement of immigration rules; for the introduction of Police & Crime Commissioners, and for requiring the mass retention of information about communications.  She spoke several times during the committee stages of LASPO (transcripts here)

Comments and initial reaction on her Appointment 

There was initially mixed disappointment and scepticism from legal aid lawyers, largely due to Truss’ record of continuously voting for Legal Aid cuts.  Her priority should have been to sort out and protect Legal Aid, said the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Legal Aid, as reported here in the Solicitors Journal. Concerns were also raised about her views on prisons (eg here in the Justice Gap, July 2016)

Lord Faulks,  justice minister under her two predecessors, resigned his post because he felt that the inexperience of Truss  could  put at risk the standing of the judiciary and courts.  Anna Soubry QC turned down post of No. 2 to Truss (according to this piece in Legal Cheek)

Much of the commentary focussed on Truss’ gender, and her being supposedly the first female Lord Chancellor, but critics of Truss denied misogyny ( eg Lord Falconer here in the Guardian)

Lord Pannick pointed out that contrary to some reports she is not the first female Lord Chancellor – that was Eleanor of Provence, who filled in for her husband Henry III in 1253.  He added that at the time “there was probably a 13th-Century Lord Falconer complaining Eleanor hadn’t been trained as a lawyer”.  

The CLSA released a statement welcoming her appointment.

Peter Oborne writing for the Mail on Sunday had this observation:-

I greatly enjoyed seeing Ms Liz Truss, the new Lord Chancellor, in her majestic Tudor-style robes of office, redolent of old England, tradition and deference.

It is amusing to recall Ms Truss’s radical anti-Monarchy speech to the Liberal Democrat conference in 1994 (she was once on the national executive committee of that party’s youth and student wing) when she proclaimed: ‘We do not believe people are born to rule.’ Her target was the Queen. 

She found out soon afterwards that Oxford graduates in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, such as herself, are indeed born to rule, and it doesn’t much matter which party they are in.  I’m sure she’ll enjoy the many conversations with Her Majesty she’ll now have, thanks to her new high office”

First days in post

The Annual HM Inspector Of Prisons report was published (19 July) and once again showed a prison service in crisis- violent, over-crowded and full of drugs with few opportunities of rehabilitation. Truss response below:-



On 21st July Truss got to dress up in black and gold robes, and was sworn-in as Lord Chancellor. The ceremony can be viewed on this YouTube clip.

 

 

First Three  Months

After a long  pause to master the brief, Truss gave her first interviews and indicated she was planning to introduce a Bill of Rights. No such bill was introduced.  It was initially unclear whether we would be keeping or scrapping the Human Rights Act.

Truss also indicated the Government would not be proceeding with “Problem Solving Courts” (previously announced by Gove) although it was later clarified she actually meant they were still considering them, and a week later confirmed the Government were in fact proceeding with them.

After a Summer break, Truss attended a meeting of the Justice select Committee, (07 September) where to the astonishment of all those attending or following, she could not confirm any planned legislation, merely saying everything was under review (Guardian report here ) Private Eye was also unimpressed:

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On 03 October Truss was all trussed up again in robes, together with a “train bearer”,  to attend her first “Opening of the Legal Year” service. Her speech here.

On 04 October Truss gave her first Conference speech as Lord Chancellor. It was a more assured performance than the infamous “cheese speech” (see above) but failed to mention Legal Aid or Access to Justice. She spoke of prison reform, announcing £14 million additional investment (although it turned out this was funding already announced by Gove). She did not acknowledge the then topical high suicide rate in prisons, but promised that “ex-soldiers” would be recruited as prison officers.  The rest of the speech was a series of platitudes. In. Very. Short. Sentences. Text  here.  Quentin Letts’ summary “How could so jellyfish and unformed a political personality have been made lord chancellor? I have known ping-pong  bats less wooden, CBeebies presenters more statesmanlike.”

November-Failure to Defend the Judiciary

On 03 November, the High Court ruled in the case of Miller that Brexit via article 50 should require a vote in Parliament. In an outpouring of outrage in the tabloids there was open hostility to the judges who were described on one front page as “enemies of the people” The LC, whose oath of office is to uphold and defend the Independence of the Judiciary, would be expected to speak up in defence of the rule of law. Instead, for a long period, silence. #WheresLizTruss?  was trending on twitter. Read more here. Then, belatedly a half-hearted statement as reported here.  Criticism continued to grow, with an attack by some Tory MPs, as well as lawyers (see this summary as reported in the Guardian)

Truss later managed a half-apology, but the criticism never really died away and (in March 2017) the Lord Chief Justice piled in  here.

Prisons Crisis

The effects of the drastic cuts implemented by Grayling led to a crisis which continued to escalate during Truss’ term of  office. There was an escalation of assaults on prison staff, suicide and self-harm of prisoners,  a “strike” by officers, violence, drugs, escapes and riots. How did Truss cope? Poorly is the general consensus – see eg here

PI Reform

Truss achieved better headlines for her “crack-down” on whiplash claims. But these “reforms” , badged as reducing insurance premiums supposedly over-inflated by dodgy claims and the “compensation culture” will in fact not help consumers, but harm those suffering genuine injury, and offer a bumper pay-out for insurance companies. See this article for the detail.

Six months In 

In December Truss appeared in the Commons to announce that “barking dogs” would tackle the problem of drones being used to courier drug deliveries. Seriously. Read this article and play the clip where Truss announces this (to laughter). Could they? See the Guardian Pass Notes

Happy Christmas!

Liz Truss extended a special message to hedgehogs. Happy Christmas hedgehogs!

2017

Februaryslammed by lawyers following another “car-crash” TV Interview

First bill  (23 February 2017) – the Prisons and Courts Bill (2017)  covering four main areas:-

1 Prison safety and reform –  described as a “new framework and clear system of accountability for prisons”  It will “enshrine into law ” that a key purpose of prison is to reform and rehabilitate
2 Court reform: -another commitment to victims and the most vulnerable, as well as improving the system by digitisation. (But see here for critical commentary)
3 The judiciary – a better working environment for judges,  modern court facilities + better IT
4 Whiplash compensation – new fixed tariffs capping whiplash compensation pay-outs

The bill has not yet been enacted.

April By April, Truss appeared out of her depth, and reports indicated she does not have the confidence of the Judiciary OR cabinet colleagues.

See this  summary of her tenure, by Frances Crook (Howard League) . Meanwhile, with the election called, pundits predicted she would not last a full year -see eg this Legal Cheek piece by Joshua Rosenberg They were right.

May-June and the General Election Truss was largely absent for most of the General election campaign. But she did visit Wibsey! 

Goodbye Truss, hello David Lidington 

So Truss has left the full cabinet by being demoted to first secretary to the treasury, replaced by David Lidington. Lidington is the 3rd new lord chancellor in little more than two years. It used to be a job that the recipient would fulfil for a decade. He is also the fourth consecutive non-lawyer to have held the post. Read more about Lidington here.

Conclusion

If Truss had showed even half the enthusiasm for justice that she has for cheese, she could have really made her mark in an area crying out for reform. As it is, Truss lasted just 11 months in the job, the shortest tenure since the post was created, and has now been demoted.

Truss was not the worst Lord Chancellor in recent time (Grayling set a high standard  for that) but she fell far short of what was required. She never appeared to be on top of her brief, abjectly failed to tackle the prison crisis, failed to stand up for the Judiciary, and does not appear to have a solitary positive achievement she can point to from her term of office. 

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Michael GOVE -Justice Secretary

Following the Conservative election victory on 07 May 2015, Cameron replaced Chris Grayling as Justice Secretary (Lord Chancellor) with Michael Gove. Gove was sacked by incoming Prime Minister Theresa May on 14 July 2016, and replaced by Liz Truss. This blog reflects on his achievements and failures in office.

Pre Justice Secretary

Gove was previously Education secretary, attracting controversy and unpopularity in equal measure. A review by Ian Leslie of Gove’s successes and failures , together with his challenges ahead as Justice secretary, was published here in the New Statesman.

He  consistently championed cutting public expenditure, other than his own (the extent of his expenses claims outlined in the Telegraph here.)

 Comments on his appointment 

A cautious welcome and “improvement on his predecessor” said Jerry Hayes (barrister and former Tory MP)

An assessment and initial analysis in this article in Legal Voice

A piece by Tom Smith (writing for the Justice Gap) looked at the ongoing battle with criminal legal aid contracting and asked whether the approach to Gove should be Conciliation or revolution?

There was certainly nothing conciliatory in Frankie Boyle’s description of Gove as a tree-frog escaping a scrotum…

A website with opportunity to slap Michael Gove was launched and continues to attract regular hits (viaThis link.)

First speech

On 23 June Gove delivered his first policy speech since appointment, describing a “two-tier” system of justice.
My reaction via BBC News in this clip.

He identified the problem, but not the cause of the problem, making no mention of the Legal Aid cuts which led to two-tier justice.  He also failed to identify the solution (proper funding) , instead preferring to focus on “improved technology and increased digitalisation” and the notion that there might be more “pro-bono” work from better-paid commercial lawyers who may want to dabble in social justice.

Gove and Prison Reform

Gove was a huge improvement on his predecessor, apparently wanting to take a constructive approach to a prison service in crisis. Eventually there were reforms set out in Queen’s speech (May 2016) but lacking the investment needed to really tackle the problems. He had however already overturned Grayling’s ridiculed and unlawful  prison book ban.
Gove and Legal Aid 

Gove initially appeared set on implementing further cuts to Legal Aid, albeit by continuing with the proposals of his disastrous predecessor Grayling. He  declined to cancel the 8.75% cut which came into effect on 1st July, leading to a series of firms refusing to act in what was to all intents and purposes a Legal Aid Strike. Jack of Kent summarised the issues in his excellent blog “Gove and the Lawyers revolt.”

After several weeks of the Criminal Lawyer’s strike, the representative bodies (LCCSA and CLSA) were invited to meet Gove- a step forward from Grayling who would not engage. Further talks with MoJ were offered, and action was suspended as a “goodwill gesture”. Finally, the offer from Gove was communicated in September- a suspension of the latest 8.75% cut for three months, from January 2016. Tendering proceeded for “two-tier” contracts, and contract awards were made -but on a flawed basis. Unsuccessful bidders launched legal actions (for outcome, see “ending two-tier” below)

In the meantime….

Gove squandered taxpayers cash on empty Courts, with Courts closed to save money, but many remaining unsold (reported in the daily Mirror.)

MOJ and the Saudi contract

Goves efforts to extricate the MOJ from Graylings ill-judged commercial contracts with a despotic regime are explained here in an article by Jack of Kent.

Poetry

Poem for Mr Gove (published on National Poetry Day last year)

Gove’s Visit to Highbury Court

In January 2016 the Lord Chancellor visited Highbury Corner Magistrates Court, with an army of  civil servants and advisers. He visited the Advice Service based at that Court, and every department but met no representative of the Defence Advocates. I attempted to engage him, and was able to present him with a letter offering to meet:-

We were advised that Mr Gove was indeed willing to meet a representative of the London Defence Community, for an informal constructive chat, and his advisers would set up a meeting as soon as possible. That was confirmed in several emails, but never happened. Gove was invited to the LCCSA Summer Party, but failed to attend and was replaced with a G(l)ove puppet.

Ending Two-tier contracting!

In January 2016 Gove finally abandoned Grayling’s plans for a two-tier justice system with this announcement. This was welcomed by most solicitors (see eg LCCSA comment) Detail and comment in this piece in Solicitors Journal.

Gove and Grayling

Cancelling two tier, ending the prisoner book ban and Saudi contract (above) and the Criminal Court Charge, meant that at least six of Grayling’s main policy disasters were now overturned. Read this useful summary of the top 6 reversals -within six months! Gove 6, Grayling 0

Missing in Action: Gove and Brexit

In February, Gove came out (in this Spectator Article) as a key cheerleader for the “Leave” campaign in the proposed referendum. For the next four months he was never out of the news- usually alongside Boris- as that toxic campaign rumbled on. I do not intend to include Brexit in this blog- suffice to say that tumbleweed blew around the MOJ offices, and most legal aid lawyers were just relieved to be left alone in peace and quiet, as were Human Rights lawyers (see below)

Gove and Human Rights

Abolishing the Human Rights Act was seen by some commentators as both the most urgent and most difficult task in Gove’s in-tray (see eg this analysis by Joshua Rozenberg) In practice, Gove (sensibly) did absolutely nothing about it.

The Gove Committee

During his period of MOJ abstinence Lawyers received the news about the “advisory committee” that Gove had promised in January (above) – but not from Mr Gove or even the MOJ – but from the apparent chair, Gove’s friend Gary Bell QC (aka “The legalizer“)  in this article (TLS Gazette 24/05/16)   Mr Bell appeared to have selected members of the Bar-dominated committee himself, comprising friends, colleagues and an instructing solicitor, leading the Law Society to question the diversity of the panel. Read more about Bell (and his controversial views on Solicitor-Advocates) here.

Personal Life

Gove is married to DailyMail journalist Sarah Vine, a glimpse into their relationship was offered by an email from her to Gove that was accidentally sent to the wrong address and then published, as described here (Guardian, 29/06/16). See also her account of the day after Brexit as Reported in the Daily Mail on the same day.

Tory Leadership bid

On 30 June Gove announced he was standing as a candidate to be the Conservative Party Leader (and therefore if successful, Prime Minister) . He did not resign as Justice Secretary. By 7th July he was out of the running, failing to attract support and generally ridiculed for his disloyalty. He was proved right about one thing – he was unsuitable to be PM.

Meanwhile, judging by the content it appears that somebody other than Mr Gove had registered the Gove2016 website…..

Sacked

Post Brexit vote, Gove was now a Minister waiting for the axe. He had unfinished business that had been on hold during his electioneering- continuing  prison reform, and perhaps reforming the Court of Appeal (as argued by Julie Price in this powerful piece in the Justice Gap.)  Theresa May sacked Gove in appointing her initial cabinet, having assumed office the previous day.

Conclusion

Gove deserves two cheers, one for leaving human rights and legal aid alone, and another for positive noises on prison rehabilitation. Whether those noises amount to genuine reform is doubtful – see this analysis  (in “the Justice Gap”)

Confounding expectations, Michael Gove was a better Justice Secretary than most criminal lawyers or legal aid lawyers could have hoped for,  largely because he was an improvement on Grayling, which was admittedly a low threshold.

Michael Gove spent the first half of his tenure undoing the damage inflicted by his predecessor and the second half doing very little. 

On that basis alone, he was quickly missed, and initial assessments of his successor were underwhelming -see this assessment of Liz Truss.

Gove-Post Justice Secretary

Gove returned to journalism, writing for the Times. He had been a staunch cheerleader for Rupert Murdoch, even during the Leveson enquiry (leading to this call by Ian Hislop for an investigation)

He returned to the cabinet following May’s ill- judged “snap election” in June 2017.

More GOVE

The classic video of “Michael Gove falling over” (a YouTube classic)

Gove at Oxford Union Debating Society reveals what is under his kilt, and in so doing reveals also his character (Here)

An unfortunate encounter with salt here

Below- an effigy of Mr Gove making an appearance at a Save UK Justice rally, January 2016

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Mayor of London’s housing chief James Murray: it’s just not cricket

Howzat!! Islington Cllr James Murray, newly appointed deputy Mayor for Housing, was wined and dined in a private box at Lords in 2013 by a housing company according to this article in Islington Gazette.
Caught out? Or bowled a googlie in an unfair presentation of the facts?
The story had legs because Cllr Murray, not shy of attacking opponents as “arrogant and greedy”, was himself at the time the Labour lead Cllr for housing in Islington, a portfolio for which he was handsomely rewarded by the Council Tax Payer in the form of the high allowance that he and colleagues voted for. In short, he could have paid his own way.

There is no doubt that Murray is dedicated to campaigning for more affordable housing, saying recently “Islington is in desperate need of family homes for social rent, particularly while low income families bear the brunt of cuts”.
I do not criticise him for taking an opportunity to network at a hospitality event, and I make it clear that there is no suggestion that he was put under any improper pressure, or that there is anything untoward in the invite or his acceptance of it (and as the Gazette makes clear, this story only came to light because he quite properly declared it)

What intrigues me is  Cllr Murray’s desperate explanation (when challenged) for attending a cricketing event given that he implausibly claimed to have little understanding or enthusiasm for the sport (despite having attending public school). 

His quote in full:-

When asked why he could not have a discussion about Islington’s housing priorities in a different setting, Cllr James said there was a broad range of people at the event and it was an opportunity to talk to them all.
He said: “I don’t know much about cricket and I still don’t after going to the match as I took it as an opportunity to talk to people.”
“I went there because it was a chance to speak to lots of people and other councils about the needs of Islington.”

I am not sure the other (unnamed) people enjoying Family Mosaic’s hospitality and trying to enjoy the cricket would have been bowled over by being talked at by Cllr Murray about the needs of Islington, or what that would have achieved. A waste of Cllr Murrays time, an annoyance for others, and certainly a waste of a ticket.

James Murray was one of Islington’s finest Councillors, but previously claimed that he “nearly had to leave Islington altogether” as a newly elected opposition Cllr back in 2007, as the rental market was “unaffordable” (this was before his Executive Allowance ) Thankfully Islington Labour MP Emily Thornberry helped out by buying a Housing Association properly at auction, and renting  out “cheap and cheerful rooms to young peoples”, one of whom was Cllr Murray.
(Full story in Camden New Journal)
It was that tough background that helped forge the young Cllr into the hosing campaigner he became and the high-salaried Deputy Mayor for housing he has become.
So let him not be judged harshly for his freebie. But if Family Mosaic want to invite people in future to talk about housing AND enjoy the cricket, let them start with their tenants. They may deserve it more, they would certainly enjoy it more.

The James Murray cricketing playlist

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Speech at CLFS Conference, May 13 2016

Intro



I am now all that stands between you and the Friday evening drink, and all that stands between you and the weekend. I therefore hope to be brief.

Although probably not as much as you hope that I will be brief.

I have been asked to speak on the topic of “the victory”, or the “win” by which I think is meant the climb-down earlier this year by the MOJ in respect of two tier contracting.
I have to say that this was very much a Pyrrhic victory, and although there was much relief, there was only muted celebration.

Much time, energy – and money – had been expended on tortuously difficult tendering documents, much anxiety hanging on the results. Firms had closed or merged in anticipation of the outcome, or planned mergers. Solicitors changed firms- only some voluntarily.

Some were bidders, some not, some “winners” some losers.

Then when contracts were awarded, those unfairly left out were minded to challenge the outcome, potentially in conflict with those awarded contracts.
What was Two Tier ?

Accompanying another 8.75% fee cut, yes the follow up to a the first 8.75% cut we had already absorbed, TT was the controversial contract-tendering procedure which would restrict the number of law firms permitted to do duty legal work. 

It was hatched by the MOJ and initiated by Chris Grayling, the previous Injustice Secretary. It was supported -encouraged even- by some firms in the BFG.

It threatened to wreak havoc on a supplier base acknowledged to be fragile, and for comparatively modest savings.

This proposed enforced consolidation of the profession would have been effectively forcing many solicitors’ firms to merge or close.

This, despite an acknowledgement that over the last parliament annual spending on legal aid was reduced from £2.4bn to £1.6bn.

What went wrong?
TT was wrong in principle, but to add insult to injury it was ultimately botched in application.

Contracts were awarded, and a whistleblower revealed the marking had been carried out by unqualified temps from a recruitment agency. 

So unsuccessful firms took legal action against the MOJ….

Take the example of EFBW:-

In October EFBW were informed by the LAA that they had been narrowly unsuccessful in their attempt to obtain a legal aid contract for duty solicitor work in Hackney, Newham and Tower Hamlets. EFBW brought legal challenges (represented by Bindmans) against the results of the procurement process in all three areas. Almost 100 other firms brought similar challenges.
The LAA then admitted that it made a basic transcription error in scoring at least one of EFBW’s bids, and that consequently EFBW should have been awarded a contract in Hackney. 

The possibility of such an error was identified by Bindmans in October, but was not addressed by the LAA in pre action correspondence and a formal offer of ADR was not taken up. 

The LAA sought to resist disclosure to other firms, and a Court order had to be requested.

Even after disclosure, the LAA ignored requests to settle EFBW’s claim and proceeded to file a defence that admitted the error but failed to acknowledge the consequences. Only later did they acknowledge that if the error had not been made, EFBW should have scored higher than at least one of the purported successful bidders, and therefore should have been awarded a contract.

The LAA still refused to settle the claim despite the fact that it should never have had to be brought, and summary judgement was sought.

So, increasingly firms involved were confident of victory, but the case rumbled on.
The Announcement.

In January the SoS for Justice, MIchael Gove announced that the plans for two-tier contracting and the cuts of 8.75% to legal aid fees for duty criminal solicitors were to be suspended.

This was a policy U-turn which followed many others, as Gove re-planted the scorched earth of the Grayling period.

Announcing the about-turn in a Commons written statement, Gove pointed out that awarding a limited number of “dual contracts” – under which solicitors take on duty legal aid work at police stations and magistrates courts as well as represent their own clients – would lead to a less diverse and competitive market.

WE COULD HAVE TOLD THEM THAT!

(WE DID TELL THEM THAT!!)



 We had pointed out that natural consolidation was already taking place in the criminal legal aid market, as crime reduced and natural competition took place.
Gove also accepted his department had already made substantial savings.
Secondly,as he said:-

 ” it has become clear, following legal challenges mounted against our procurement process, that there are real problems in pressing ahead as initially proposed. My department currently faces 99 separate legal challenges over the procurement process, which has required us to stay the award of new contracts. 

In addition, a judicial review challenging the entire process has raised additional implementation challenges. Given how delicately balanced the arguments have always been … I have decided not to go ahead with the introduction of the dual contracting system”
So ultimately it was the lawyers wot won it, using the only effective tactic in our armoury- the law.

We can celebrate the acts of those in the litigation that argued the tendering process was fundamentally flawed. There was also support even from those not directly involved:

big firms and small, private and legal aid, 

two-tier contracts, single-tier contracts and lots- of -tears no contracts.

History of Campaign



Before the “victory” there were other battles in the ongoing war, with many skirmishes along the way. By ongoing war, I mean the continuing battle for legal aid lawyers to be properly paid.

First there was a consultation, or bearing in mind it was from the MOJ a NONsultation.

That was flawed, and had to be re-run.

Then there was the tendering procurement scheme itself, and the JR in which we argued the whole scheme was irrational. 

The LCCSA was proud to have fought that battle, together with CLSA and TLS.

We lost.

And it was expensive.

We campaigned and fundraised.

Many of you contributed – thank you.

Counsel’s fees from a leading Admin set totalled around £150k (which goes to show why we should practice admin law not crim law)

That meant, despite generous donations, we depleted our reserves and gave our treasurer sleepless nights. 

So the fact that we have survived as an Association, with membership steady, and in a period of consolidation, is a victory of sorts.
But campaigning had started long before the litigation

For example:-

On May 22nd 2013 the LCCSA organised a demo which generated national coverage

On the afternoon of the same day there was a national meeting attended by 1000 solicitors and barristers. 

On 4th June (the closing date of the first consultation) another demo organised by solicitors outside the MOJ again with considerable national publicity. 

By March the following year there was a day of action, a withdrawal of services from courts, called in some quarters a “strike”.

We had No Returns.

We had a protocol where firms agreed to sign up no new legal aid cases. Only a small minority breached that, some reluctantly for vulnerable own clients only, and fewer still took an opportunity to clean up or profit.

We learned solidarity, and began to trust each other.
But the truth is so far as funding is concerned, for years we have endured a slow death by a thousand cuts, a sustained attack, and only belatedly we learned to fight back. 

We campaigned, protested, demonstrated, withdrew services, and went on strike.

We battled the most odious and incompetent of Lord Chancellors, the infamous Chris Grayling.

To be perfectly blunt, he was a bit of a

difficult man to engage with.

Grayling, known by all as “failing Grayling” was described by JH as a “turd that couldn’t be flushed”.Grayling didn’t like lawyers, and the feeling was mutual.

So, we rallied in Parliament square, outside Westminster Magistrates Court, the Old Bailey and MoJ HQ, and we walked from Runnymede to Westminster.
And we took legal action against the MoJ, with our JR at the High Court.
Much of this achieved little at the time, so maybe the “win” in January is something we should cherish.

The New Legal Aid Landscape



Right to legal aid is ‘basic human right’, Jeremy Corbyn told a Justice Alliance meeting at the start of this year. 

Whether you area Corbynista or not, the fact that the Leader of a Political Party – the leader of the opposition no less – not only mentions legal aid but does so in a supportive way is a significant development.

Labour have initiated the Bach review into Legal Aid, and Gove has said that he is convening a committee or forum to discuss legal aid in a constructive way.

There was nothing constructive about relations/negotiations with Failing Grayling, so the political landscape has certainly changed.

Unity 
Two years ago, Paul Harris spoke about the need for unity.

At that time, relations between leadership of the criminal bar and solicitors had reached a low point. Last year Greg Powell again spoke on the theme of unity. This followed a slightly fractious period- relations between solicitors and our friends at the bar had become strained. Like an old married couple, we were bickering, but I think we are living comfortably together again now.

At least until the next row! 

We are working constructively on proposals for AGFS and litigator fees to try and make sure we are all properly paid for the work we properly do.

We can learn from what happened when Grayling successfully sought to divide and rule.

The lesson of unity is a simple one, especially where we have a common enemy.

United we stand, divided we fall.
Current Campaigns



There is always some horror lurking around the corner.

 Currently, during this quiet period when Michael Gove has become the SoS for Brexit, our friends at the Sentencing Guidelines Council are consulting on the amount of credit for guilty pleas- and with some alarming proposals out there to reduce the incentive if the client didn’t cough and confess at point of arrest. 

If not before.
BCM/ DCS/ PTPH/CJSM 


Yes its acronym time – Bloody Case Management, Dire Case Systems and Pressure to Plead Hearings. 

A good idea in principle- less hearings, less paper.

But the underlying problems have not gone away -inadequate disclosure, late disclosure, lack of legal aid, problem getting prison visits etc.

The LCCSA and CBA have worked hard to try and help this work, at a series of meetings, from the National Implementation Team (NIT) to the London Implementation Team (LIT)

Thankfully there hasn’t been further devolution to the Central London Implementation Team, or the South Hampstead Implementation Team, the anacronym of which may best sum up the whole mess.
Gove

Gove didn’t just abandon two-tier tendering.

He had already reversed many of Grayling’s money saving initiatives, including 

-the ban on prisoners receiving books from their families 

-the equally detested criminal courts courts charge, (the mandatory payment of up to £1,200 imposed on all convicted defendants irrespective or means or ability to pay

He forced the government to cancel a £5.9 million contract to advise the Saudi Arabian prison system.

He scrapped the commercial wing of the Ministry of Justice after human rights concerns.

And Gove abandoned plans to build a £100 million “secure college” for teenage prisoners.
But where is he now?

Missing in Action
He popped up at HCMC at the start of this year on a day where I also happened to be there, and as he was meeting everyone but the defence I ambushed him with a letter requesting a meeting, and he agreed.


We are still waiting.

But perhaps no news is good news.

We have had enough of diktat and pronouncement by highly paid civil servants at the MOJ , and we have had enough of cuts.

 We cannot take any more.

The sustainability of the justice system relies on proper preparation and presentation of cases.

We all play our parts- barristers and solicitors.

Brothers and sisters in arms.

So yes we had a victory in January, but let’s not be fooled- that was a battle, and so far as legal aid is concerned there is an ongoing war.

At least we no longer have Grayling, who managed to combine total war with Cold War.

But depending on the outcome of the Euro Referendum, we may not have Mr Gove much longer, and who knows who will succeed him?
The LCCSA had virtually -and by necessity- re-invented ourselves as a campaigning organisation.

Thankfully, we have put the banners and t-shirts away, at least for now , and gone back to our core business- training events, representing criminal lawyers in London whether doing legal aid or not, and of course our famous social events.

Which presents me the chance to do my one “plug” – the LCCSA Summer Party, July 8th!

So it’s a half- cheer for the Victory in January, and a relief that we can get back to our day jobs.

Some of us will always remember where we were on the day when we heard the news of Gove’s announcement abandoning two-tier. 

I certainly remember going to the pub to meet fellow lawyers to celebrate the victory.

Unhappily, I was in “dry January” and celebrated without the assistance of alcohol.

That bleak month has long passed, and I promised not too keep you too long from your drinks.

So I hope to see some of you in the pub- Steve has the details- and let us raise a glass to justice, celebrate solidarity, drink to the health of legal aid, and share a toast -to Victory.

Cheers!

Greg Foxsmith

President, LCCSA

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Offending in Islington

Crime in Islington is on the rise, and questions have been asked of the Council’s “Crime tsar” Councillor Paul “crack-down” Convery under whose watch mobile phone thefts, robberies and knife crime rocketed.

In an internal “scrutiny” report, LBI Councillors have swallowed Convery’s explanation that this is all down to “soft-touch” magistrates letting offenders off too lightly, as reported in the Islington Tribune here (“Fears young thieves and drug dealers are getting an easy ride from Islington magistrates”)

In fact, the report, even after making allowances for the sloppy drafting and poor grammar, shows a shocking lack of knowledge about the causes of crime, the prevention of crime, and the workings of the Criminal Justice System.

Background

Islington Labour has always had a default position of cracking-down on crime by deterrent and retribution rather than prevention and rehabilitation, and were early and enthusiastic supporters of the ineffective counter-productive ASBOs.

There has also been an over-reliance on CCTV, turning Islington into a closed-circuit saturation State, but without proper investment or supervision on those agencies who can actually work within communities to prevent crime.

The writing was on the wall by January this year, with a damming report into a failing Youth Offending Service , and rising crime figures.

Scrutiny” Report

In a belated attempt to examine the “causes of crime”, it is clear Labour Councillors have looked for excuses rather than reasons as evidenced in the attempt to blame “lenient sentencing” for Islington’s crime figures, predictably grabbing the headlines and deflecting attention from their own failings.

Nowhere is this clearer than in “recommendation 1” which calls for a “briefing meeting” with the “Clerks” at Highbury Court. 

It shows how out of touch the Councillors are when they refer to “clerks” where they presumably mean Legal Advisers, the name being changed over 10 years ago, and demonstrates the first failing of their review- a failure to actually visit the Court, and witness sentencing in practice (albeit there is no public gallery in the Youth Court, a quick observation in the Adult Court would show the rigour with which sentences are applied) 

The “clerks” (legal advisers) do not pass sentence, but advise the Magistrates on sentencing powers- and any attempt to interfere with that process by “briefings” to magistrates would be an intolerable interference with Judicial Independence. In any event, there is NO evidence to show that sentencing at Highbury is “more lenient” than at any other Court- which is unlikely as sentencing guidelines ensure consistency across Courts.

The fact is that far from leniency, in England and Wales we lock up more young people, and for longer, than any other European Country, with nothing to show for this draconian incarceration but recidivism and failure. In 1997, the Government lowered the age of criminal responsibility for children from 14 to 10, and presided over a five-fold increase in youths imprisoned in the following decade.

The reoffending rate for children who have been in custody is around 75%, suggesting that child custody is not an effective rehabilitation strategy. Nonetheless, we are seeing an increase in prison sentences and decline in community punishment.

Islington Labour Councillors responsible for the report are out of touch. Cllr Convery has been challenged by Frances Crook of Howard League for Penal Reform to produce evidence in support of his assertions, and is awaiting a reply.

Notes

A variation of this article was published in the Islington Tribune, 13th May (Forum pice)

Guardian summary of PRT report explaining why so many young people end up in custody here 

Howard League: Publications on youth offending 

Current Sentencing Guidelines Council consultation on Youth Sentencing here

Read about Cllr Convery’s Late Night Levy Madness (a privately funded barmy army patrolling Islington streets)

Playlist for Crime in Islington.

Gove and Prison Reform – need to cut prison numbers (argues Simon Jenkins in the Guardian)

Photos

1 Councillor Convery Cannabis Crackdown


2 Cllr Convery on CCTV


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Hillsborough Inquest – a lawyer’s perspective (guest blog by Anna Morris)

Dedicated to the memory of the 96 victims of the Hillsborough Stadium disaster who died on 15 April 1989.

On 26th April 2016, I hugged two of my clients with elation after a jury of 6 women and 3 men set the record straight after 27 years about what happened at Hillsborough stadium on 15 April 1989. Moments later, they looked at each other and said, without missing a beat, “so, what do we do tomorrow?” They hadn’t dared to believe there could be a day when they would not have to fight for justice, to fight to clear the name of their loved one. This had been a life-defining fight for a generation of children, wives, parents and siblings of those 96 men, women, boys and girls.

The jury’s conclusions finally saw their families achieve something they recognise as justice. Much has rightly been reported about their tenacity, commitment and patience. But I want to say something about their humanity.

The families have endured the longest jury case in English legal history. 319 days of witnesses, evidence and submissions. For many of the families, attending Birchwood business park had become a full time job. Employers who asked, “haven’t you got over it yet?” had to be negotiated with, child-care had to be arranged, health problems had to be managed, life continued to be put on hold. But when they could be there, they were there. Sitting, listening. Waiting.

At the start of the process, many approached with caution after decades of being let down again and again by lawyers, judges and politicians. They had no reason to trust us, their lawyers but as they sat there in our conferences, polite but knotted tense with questions and anger, their thoughts were never just of themselves; “who will look after the jury?” “What about the survivors, who speaks for them?” “How do I find the man who helped our brother, I want to thank him?” We could only tell them, “we will try and get these answers for you. We hope we can”.

Most of the families had an encyclopedic knowledge of the papers disclosed as part of the Hillsborough Independent Panel. As their lawyers we had to be able to call up documents at the click of a finger to answer the broad and complex questions that troubled them. More than one set piece of witness examination conducted by our team of advocates was centered on a document recalled through the mists of time by one of our clients, tracked down in the 250,000 plus pages of disclosed material. In fact, one of my clients, when she presented 10 neatly typed pages of devastatingly precise and searching questions to Operation Resolve, the Coroner’s Investigation team, was (with only a hint of humour) offered a job as an investigator. We all had to be at our best. No one wanted to let these families down.

But on many occasions, it was our clients looking after us, using their 27 years of pain to help us navigate our way through the sea of changing emotions. From flasks of pea-whack soup served from the boot of a car, to cups of tea in their homes, we were shown such warmth and respect that it was truly humbling. I took great strength from one client who, when I asked her how she kept going through all the lies being told about her brother, about him being a drunken hooligan who caused his own death, she simply smiled broadly and answered, “eyes and teeth, eyes and teeth”. I have repeated that mantra many times since that day.

During the inquest I was the mother to one young boy and pregnant with a second. I was representing the family of boys who were 15 and 19 when they died and I was incredibly moved by the loss of so many young boys’ lives. I couldn’t imagine them just not coming home one day. One client, on the morning of her young son’s inquest, presented me with a bag full of hand knitted baby clothes specially made for my son. It absolutely floored me that this woman could even think about anyone else in the circumstances, let alone extend such deep kindness. I have a drawer full of beautiful blankets and clothes, made by those strong women of Liverpool. Nothing could make me prouder.

When my youngest son finally made his first trip to Birchwood, he was passed from mother to mother, bounced on knees and fussed over as if he was one of their own. It only struck me later, like a tidal wave, that I had been swapping teething, sleeping and feeding stories about children who would never grow old.

There are many small moments that made the Hillsborough Inquests more than just an inquiry into the circumstances into how 96 people died that day. Moments that might have started in the court room but resonated far wider. The pen portraits that painted the real pictures of 96 cherished loved ones who attended a football match and never came home with humour and dignity. The vigorous handshake in the corridor between a father and the off-duty Metropolitan Police Officer who pulled his son from the pen, the damp-eyed slap on the back for the fellow fan that carried someone’s brother on a stretcher and wished he could have done more. The sympathetic words for colleagues who also lost loved ones during the months of the inquests. The jurors who when discharged when court concluded that final time, were each hugged by the families, each thanked for their commitment. The families in their grace never left anyone un-thanked. I hope that those witnesses, relieved of their burden after 27 years were the lighter for it.

Every day of the inquest we shared tea and tears with those who traveled to that grey box on a business park. On the some of the most difficult days of evidence, the families would always be able to find a joke, a smile and a hug for each other. Willing each other on. Someone was always in charge of making sure there was milk for tea and the biscuit tin was always full.

They are the best in all of us. It could have been any of us in their shoes whose brother, father, sister or son went to that match. They have defied the state’s attempt to define them by gender, geography, class or type. We can all aspire to their dignity and strength. It has been a privilege to walk with them on a small part of their journey.

No one can now deny the success and the power of the families’ campaign for justice all these years. They are the reason that 96 verdicts of ‘accidental death’ were quashed. It is their demands that ensured the truth has now been heard. We should never be in doubt that this is the reason why families should be at the heart of the inquest system.

Anna Morris, May 2016


NOTES/LINKS

Hillsborough Independent Report: http://hillsborough.independent.gov.uk (disclosed materials and report)

Inquest Charity: http://www.inquest.org.uk/

Michael Mansfield: “Hillsborough families were my rock ” (Liverpool Echo)

A full if harrowing account of the evidence, the inquest and the outcome reported in the Guardian here.

Why the police “apology” was neither sincere or believable explained by Mark George QC. 

Call for a rebalance of the justice system and equality of arms at Inquest hearings (reported here in the Guardian May 2016)

Another Hillsborough Lawyer, Elkan Abrahamson, interviewed here in the Liverpool Echo.

And don’t miss this survivor’s account by Adrian Tempany. Powerful and moving.

About the author

Anna Morris is a barrister at Garden Court chambers. Anna’s practice focuses on criminal justice and civil liberties and encompasses criminal defence and appellate advice, inquests into deaths in custody, civil actions against the police and public law. A human rights specialist, Anna has extensive experience of successfully representing clients whose cases challenge public policy and promote civil liberties. Read full profile on Chambers website here.

Air Quality in Islington

Air pollution is rising at an alarming rate in major Cities including London (as reported in the Guardian (May 2016))

Islington, like much of London, continues to suffer from polluted air, whilst the Council takes inadequate action to improve air quality. It is time for real action, and the new London Mayor should widen the Central London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) proposed for 2020 to include more areas such as Islington.


Labour (who run Islington) should have campaigned to get TFL to include LBI in ULEZ. Instead, they voted against that proposal by Green Cllr Caroline Russell when raised in December 2014 (as she explains here.)

Air quality in Islington is terrible, the air we breathe being potentially deadly. Respiratory illnesses, asthma, heart and lung problems, cancer, and dramatically reduced life expectancy are the consequences of the polluted air, and the lethal micro-particles we inhale along with nitrogen dioxide. Two years ago I called for the council to aim for a diesel-free borough (as reported here in the Islington Tribune)
Air pollution levels in Islington- even near schools- are double EU limits (as reported in Islington Gazette)
In the great smog of 60 years ago, people could see and taste the polluted air around them- and Government acted quickly, passing the Clean Air Act. The pollutants we ingest now are on the whole invisible*,odourless, but arguably more deadly.But because they are an unseen killer, it is easy for politicians to fail to act. There are policy failings at National, London(mayoral) and local levels.

In the absence of proper monitoring by LBI, Islington Green Party funded air quality checks which showed illegal and dangerous levels of pollutants including near schools (figures here)


Islington Council is not funding the actions that are needed to protect residents, especially young children, from harm. Sadly, in February 2014 at the Council’s budget Labour Cllrs voted against a modest expenditure on air quality, choosing instead to spend Council Tax money on their allowances and political spin doctors. They then voted against a budget amendment proposed by Green Councillor Caroline Russell in February this year (
see here)

The scrutiny report of May 2013 which recommended a number of changes the Council should implement has been largely ignored and now removed from the Council’s website.

Mayor Sadiq Khan made great promises to tackle air pollution, after 8 years of inaction by Boris, but his first act on taking office was to withdraw opposition to City Airport expansion!


What residents want is clean air, not hot air.

Check out music on this Clean Air Playlist

For more info on clean air in London generally, check out Clean Air in London

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*although on some sunny days you can see the discoloured air! especially from high up- as in the photo above on Town Hall roof

Below:- receiving award from Clean Air in London

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