Transparency Concerns Prompt Law Society Withdrawal From MOJ Group

The Law Society has withdrawn from a Ministry of Justice (MoJ) working group over concerns about the transparency of the scheme. The Society has been involved with the Advocates’ Graduated Fee Scheme (AGFS) working group since 2015, but recently announced that it had written to inform the MoJ that it would cease to be a part of the group.

The Law Society of England and Wales is one of the most prominent and influential professional bodies for the legal industry. Representing the interests of both solicitors and the public, its withdrawal from the MoJ working group is significant if only because of the Society’s prominence in the UK legal landscape.

According to the president of the Society, Robert Bourns, the decision to withdraw from the working group was made after “restrictions on how information was shared meant it was not possible for us to contribute to the process in a meaningful way.”

The Law Society expressed concerns about restrictions on the open and transparent use of information, and in particular with its inability to share information and documentation with its own committee of experts. In particular, Law Society members of the AGFS working group “had concerns about late changes to proposals,” said Bourns, but were not allowed to confidentially discuss their concerns with the expert committee of the Law Society.

Bourns continued: “As we are unable to discuss with our expert committee, the Society feels unable to continue to participate in this working group.”

The Advocates’ Graduated Fee Scheme or AGFS is the scheme that governs legal aid payments for Crown Court advocates. Both barristers and higher court advocates are subject to the scheme, which the MoJ working group aims to review and potentially reform.

The Law Society of England and Wales said that it still intended to take part in public consultations on the review of AGFS, but did not feel that remaining an actual part of the working group would give any added benefit or influence under current terms. In a statement, the society president also made a point of stating that the Society would remain a part of another, related working group concerned with the legal aid payment scheme for litigators.

The Litigators’ Graduated Fee Scheme (LGFS) working group, Bourns said, would continue to benefit from the involvement and contributions from the Law Society. The decision to remain in this group but withdraw from the other, according to Bourns, was that the LGFS group’s “current terms of engagement allow us to make a meaningful contribution with appropriate input from our committee.”

At-Risk Women Opting for Prison

Vulnerable and at-risk women are choosing prison over freedom because of fears about their safety or wellbeing, according to charitable bodies. Some women who have been released from prison are deliberately carrying out acts that will land them back in prison as they feel that they will be safer inside, or have better access to vital support.

There are a number of factors that may drive these women to feel a return to prison is preferable to life on the outside. Some have important needs, particularly mental health needs, that receive better support and treatment in prison than is afforded to them when on parole. Others fear for their safety, for example believing themselves to be in danger from an abusive partner or former partner, and still others are homeless and have nowhere to go except back inside. Roughly 60% of women leaving prison are homeless upon release, and their situation is often compounded by a shortage of both temporary and permanent accommodation, and by difficulty in accessing benefits.

For many of these women, effecting a return to prison simply involves breaching the terms of their parole. Others take more drastic action, committing new crimes in order to obtain a fresh sentence. A number of charities that work with women who are or have been in prison are reporting this phenomenon, and it is said that such vulnerable women are particularly likely to seek a return to prison in the period around Christmas.

The leader of one women’s centre in Birmingham, Joy Doal of the Anawim project, says that the Christmas period is “a really difficult time if they haven’t got a family… For some, prison is a place where they will feel safe. They get three meals and a bed for the night.”

Women in Prison‘s policy and campaign manager Claire Cain also spoke of the difficulties faced by many women upon release from prison. She said the organisation frequently encounters women who are in a situation where they have only three options: “to stay in an abusive and exploitative flat, surrounded by drugs and alcohol that they are trying to keep free from, end up on the streets, or reoffend and go back to prison.”

Many of the women in question have, at least initially, only served quite brief sentences. Most have committed non-violent crimes, and in a number of cases they have been pressured into crime in order to help fund the drug addiction of a partner.

According to campaigners, the situation reflects a lack of commitment to providing support services for vulnerable women. Others have claimed the fact women are choosing prison over life on the outside as an indictment of the lack of funding and resources allocated to the social support net that they must rely upon after release.

Hello world!

Hi, I’m Levinson – welcome to my blog! Yes, its about law and justice, but no, its not boring!!!

The law is not always concerned with staid and dreary lawsuits; sometimes there are cases that are odd, to say the least. To start off my blog, I bring to you a collection of some of the most unusual cases to have been heard in the UK.

  • Tracey Ormsby, a Policewoman, tried to claim £1.5million damages when she was hit on the head by a pineapple. The judge saw sense and reduced her award to just £3000.
  • Lord Justice Ormrod, Lord Justice Dunn and Mr Justice Arnold made a memorable ruling in 1980, when they agreed that a woman who rationed sex to her husband was ‘acting reasonably’.
  • Cathy McGowan won a car on a local radio station, only to be presented with a toy one when she went to collect her prize. The court ruled that Radio Buxton pay her £8000 – the value of the apparently price Renault Clio – as they had entered into a legally binding contract.
  • Schools were subject to a High Court order that they must inform children watching ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, the famous Al Gore climate change film, that it contains ‘partisan political views’.
  • Brian Clapton, a butcher, was subjected to a court order banning him from chopping meat too loudly between the hours of 6am and 8am.
  • Procter and Gamble, the major multinational, managed to get a court to rule that Pringles are not, in fact, crisps, thus saving the company thousands in VAT applied to such products.

The law can be a strange beast, and some of the above are cautionary tales that show exactly why you should fight your corner if you believe you are not being fairly treated.

Often, the outcome of a case may be far from certain.

Levinson for Justice!!!