Deborah Russo, Joint Managing Solicitor here at PAS, was asked to speak, yesterday (18 July 2017), at the launch of the new edition of Proof Magazine. Co-produced by Justice Gap and Justice Alliance, this edition takes as its theme the case for Legal Aid.
In a landmark ruling on 10 April this year, alongside the Howard League for Penal Reform, PAS had successfully challenged the legality of the government’s 2013 cuts to Legal Aid for prisoners, which removed 80% of Prison Law cases from Legal Aid eligibility. Deborah was asked to speak at the launch of this third edition of Proof as a direct result of PAS’ successful Judicial Review.
The unveiling of the magazine took place at the House of Commons, where campaigners called on the government to start an immediate review of the 2013 cuts. Speaking at the launch, the co-founder of Justice Alliance, Matt Foot, said that for four years the group had been calling on the government to conduct a proper review. ‘They won’t do it so we’ve done it for them. Proof Magazine is the review that the Government has shamefully failed to do,’ he told the audience.
During the discussion, Deborah spoke about the impact of the cuts made by the then Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling, to Legal Aid for prisoners, ‘It’s no surprise that incidents of violence and self-injury have risen to record levels,’ she said. She pointed out that 120 prisoners committed suicide in 2016, the largest number on record.
Whilst acknowledging the Court of Appeal victory by PAS and the Howard League, Deborah expressed disappointment at the fact that, “in practice, the government has appealed to the Supreme Court and, pending their decision, nothing can change. Sadly, therefore, prisoners are continuing to face the same injustice.”
Proof is the magazine of Justice Gap. This edition of the magazine features contributions from Helena Kennedy QC, Martha Spurrier and Lord Tony Gifford QC, as well as journalists including the Guardian’s David Conn and Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi, who has written an extended article reporting from the frontline of the Legal Aid cuts for the issue. Information about Proof Magazine can be found here.
Further information regarding yesterday’s event can be found here.