As I wrote this morning, Legal Aid turns 64 – https://gemmab82.wordpress.com/2013/07/30/64-years-of-legal-aid.
Hundreds of lawyers, campaigners and individuals gathered outside The Old Bailey in London to help celebrate Legal Aid and hear how it can save people’s lives.
We were being watched by Lady Justice herself. She stood up there for all of us, not just the rich.
I arrived early and watched Justice Alliance set up for what would turn out to be an amazing rally. Today really showed strength and unity. There were lots of organisations, law firms and individuals coming together to support the cause.
We heard from Anne Hall, who I had the pleasure of speaking to before the event. She is a lovely woman who really values legal aid. Her son, Daniel Roque Hall, was a disabled prisoner, who was ignored by the prison service. He needed emergency care, but complaints were completely ignored. The only way he was released from prison and given the care he needs was because of legal aid.
Raphael Rowe also spoke. Raphael was one of the “M25 Three”. Raphael told us all how he had served 12 years in prison for murder and robberies that he had not committed. It was legal aid that enabled him to appeal his conviction. Rafael stated that the poor get shit on by the state. He now works for the BBC as a journalist for Panoramo and thinks that it is a travesty that the BBC and other sources of media are not covering the legal aid cuts.
Jeremy Corbyn MP, and a member of the Justice Select Committee, read Billy Power’s message. “Without Legal Aid and choice, how many more miscarriages of justice?”.
I also managed to speak to, Comedian, Josie Long before the start of the rally. She is a charming and sweet lady who is genuinely concerned for the future of state funding. Josie gave her speech and stated why she supports legal aid, despite not having any personal experience of it. She states her idol is Cait Reilly, who fought, on her own, for a breach of her human rights, using legal aid. It is important to hold the government to account. She even threw a few jokes in for good measure.
Leroy Skeete also spoke. He was in prison for many years, and told he would never be released. Legal aid helped him and he was released.
Shauneen Lambe from Just for Kids gave a rousing speech, in which she stated that legal aid runs through the core of a democratic society. She stated she is scared that only the rich will get justice.
The Director of Liberty HQ said “I’m here today to celebrate #LegalAid, not mourn its death… We’re all entitled to justice”.
Other speakers included Sadiq Khan MP, Zita Holbourne from BARAC, and “Sally”, a mother of a rape victim. The speeches were really inspiring and, some, extremely sad and upsetting. The important thing to remember is that legal aid provides access to justice to everyone, which is a fundamental human right. We all deserve the right to access, representation and a fair trial.
Matt Foot from Justice Alliance gave the final speech. A brilliant, and passionate speaker.
Below are some more pictures:
The Howard League for Penal Reform
All African Woman Group
Women Against Rape
We also heard the beautiful voices of the London Youth Gospel Choir who managed to get the crowd singing.
I am very proud to have been a part of today.
I even managed to get a snap and an opportunity to speak to Michael Turner QC, Chairman of the Criminal Bar Association. He is very positive about our fight against the government’s legal aid proposals. Let’s keep fighting the good fight. As Mr Turner would say: ‘do right, fear no one’.