On 28th June 2013, Rachel Bentley’s Save UK Justice e-petition hit 100,000 signatures. What made the amount of signatures particularly special, was that it was her birthday.
The Solicitors Journal wrote about it: here.
100,000 signatures on an e-petition qualifies the matter to be debated by Backbenchers in Parliament. However, as we know, this debate took place one day ahead of meeting its 100,000 target (read about it here).
I understand that this Backbenchers debate occurred without prejudice to its numbers, therefore, as I understand it, a second debate could be held. I really hope so!
There are so many reasons why hitting a target of 100,000 is astonishing. There have been so many people who have been tirelessly campaigning to raise awareness of the following:
– All suspects deserve the right to choose their own solicitor. All suspects/defendants are entitled to a fair trial (Will Article 6 come to the rescue?).
– Having a financial incentive which means that there would be no difference in fee between someone who makes admissions and pleads guilty, to someone who pleads not guilty and goes to Trial, means that there would be a huge loss in trust between solicitor and suspect, also a huge loss of trust in the criminal justice system as a whole from members of the public.
– The proposals are being rushed, have not been thought through and have a serious impact on the justice system as a whole.
– The proposals are not just about cutting legal aid, the MoJ are reforming the whole system! These proposals do not give law firms enough time to adapt to any proposals if they were to come in.
– Having a small amount of law firms covering certain geographical areas would contradict any savings (for example, just 5 law firms in Kent would be covering a population of 1.7 million!!). Delays and an increased cost to the taxpayer are inevitable.
– Not all Defendants are criminals. Some people are falsely accused of crimes, and would be unable to gain ‘adequate’ representation, or any representation at all.
– Not all lawyers are fat cats. The average salary of a criminal lawyer is £24,000!
Reaching 100,000 was amazing, but this is not a victory. The campaigning needs to continue and the petition still needs signatures.
Mr Grayling is due to give evidence to the Justice Select Committee on 3rd July 2013, following the Committee hearing evidence from the legal profession.
You can read about the first evidence session here.
And the second evidence session here.
Keep checking my blog to find out what’s going on.
If you haven’t signed the petition yet, do it now! http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/48628