If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It–What The Country Voted For

In Camoron’s first incarnation as the Nation’s Prime Minister he set about reforming the Legal System system, amongst others.  In doing so he aimed to save about £450 Million from Legal Aid bills.  This led to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO coming into force.

This Act, which personally I had never heard of before, seems to only apply to Civil cases, but some of those Civil cases might affect us at some point in our lives.  It has removed countless cases from the scope of the Legal Aid scheme.

LASPO reverses the position whereby legal aid is accessible for all civil cases other than those excluded by the Access to Justice Act 1999. Whole categories of law have been taken out of scope for legal aid; others only qualify if they meet certain criteria. The categories now out of scope include:

  1. Family cases where there is no proof of domestic violence, forced marriage or child abduction. There has been a 60% fall in family cases granted funding and two thirds of cases in the family court now feature somebody representing themselves.
  2. Immigration cases that do not involve asylum or detention
  3. Housing and debt matters unless they constitute an immediate risk to the home
  4. Welfare benefit cases; except appeals to the upper tribunal or high court
  5. Almost all clinical negligence cases
  6. Employment cases that do not involve human trafficking or a contravention of the Equality Act 2010

The 4 out of 6 that I have highlighted are the ones that are most likely to affect us at some time. Don’t think that Criminal Law has escaped either, as from last April the government has cut the Criminal Legal Aid budget by £215 Million as well.

To clarify, this is what I wrote about the (then) forthcoming changes on another site;

“Changes to legal aid

Welfare benefit appeals

You’ll no longer be able to get legal aid to help you make an appeal against a decision on welfare benefits unless you’re making an appeal to the Upper Tribunal or higher courts.  So, once again our caring sharing government has excelled, not only do they slash benefits, ATOS assessments abound, everyone being forced off the rock and roll, but we’ve taken away the only way an unemployed/ill person can use to challenge that decision.  Without a sudden increase in charitable funding, how are these folk going to pay their legal fees to challenge what they undoubtedly see as an unfair assessment etc etc?  Surely this is akin to the school bully nicking your dinner money and then tying you up so you can’t tell anyone?  Or is it just me that thinks that?

Debt

You’ll no longer be able to get legal aid to help you with your debts unless a creditor is making you bankrupt or taking court action to evict you from your home

Housing

You’ll no longer be able to get legal aid to help you with housing problems unless:

  • there’s serious disrepair in your home
  • you’re homeless
  • you’re being evicted from your home
  • the council is taking action against you because of anti-social behaviour.

Employment

You won’t be able to get legal aid to help you with an employment dispute or go to an employment tribunal unless it’s a discrimination case.

Private family law

You won’t be able to get legal aid to help you with private family law problems unless you’re a victim or are at risk of domestic violence or there has been or is a risk of child abuse These include:

  • divorce
  • dissolution of civil partnership
  • financial disputes
  • property disputes
  • disputes over children.

Asylum support

If you’re an asylum seeker, you won’t be able to get legal aid to help you with asylum support unless you have applied for both housing and financial support.

Non-asylum immigration

You won’t be able to get legal aid to help you with an immigration application unless you:

  • have been detained
  • make an application under the domestic violence rules
  • make an application because you’re a victim of human trafficking.

Education

You won’t get legal aid to help with education problems unless the child or young adult has Special Educational Needs.

Consumer and general contract law

You won’t get legal aid for any action you want to take for consumer problems or problems you have with general contracts.

Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority cases

You won’t get legal aid to help with the costs of trying to get compensation because you’ve suffered a criminal injury.

Clinical negligence cases

You won’t get legal aid for most clinical negligence problems.

What will you still be able to get legal aid for

You’ll still be able to get legal aid for the following problems:

  • care proceedings
  • family mediation
  • asylum applications
  • mental health proceedings
  • community care cases
  • discrimination. “

I seem to recall reading somewhere previously that we can no longer get Legal Aid to challenge Government Decisions but as I write I can’t quite lay my hands on that gem, or I might just be getting old.  I did however find this which might mean that I’m NOT going senile.

“In a judgment handed down on 3rd March 2015, the High Court ruled that regulations brought in by Chris Grayling, the Lord Chancellor, in April 2014 to cut legal aid funding for judicial review are unlawful.

The case hinged on the MoJ’s decision to restrict legal aid for Judicial Review challenges of decisions made by public bodies

Now we’ve had our General Election and the country voted.  They voted Tory and brought in a (small) majority government with Camoron at the helm.

One of his avowed policies is to scrap the Human Rights Act.  By doing so he will be removing the following collection of Rights from the Statute Book

  • The right to life
  • The right not to be tortured
  • The right not to be a slave
  • The right to a fair trial
  • The right NOT to be punished if you haven’t broken the law
  • The right to private family life
  • The right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion
  • The right to freedom of expression
  • The right to marry and start a family
  • The right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions
  • The right to education
  • The right to free elections
  • The right NOT to be given to death penalty

Some are clearly more important than others, and I’m certainly not saying that these rights and this Act won’t be replaced by something else, but what guarantees do we have?  Do we trust a Tory government not to weaken our basic Human Rights? Will there be a replacement Act?  Why replace the one we have?

People of Britain this is what you got when you voted.  Personally I’d rather not replace something unless it’s broke. In terms of Public Protection we seem to be considerably worse off than we were.

Memoirs From A Picket Line – Part Four

Today would change our experience of the Miners’ Strike completely. We didn’t yet know it but we were about to be introduced to violence on the Picket Line for the first, but not the only, time.

This tour also introduced us to a slight change of tactics. We were now a Mobile Reserve being deployed to whichever pit needed our help.

This week we were deployed in sunny Derbyshire and, as was becoming remarkably boring, and predictable, breakfast was about to be interrupted again.  We were breakfasting somewhere in Chesterfield when the news came over the tannoy that we were being sent to a pit (sorry, can’t remember the name) to assist one of our colleagues from Devon and Cornwall who had requested some assistance.

When we arrived and reported to the Ground Commander he pointed to a nearby slag heap with a number of striking miners on top of it, throwing things down.  It seems that a lone PC from Devon and Cornwall had taken it upon himself to scale the slag heap and ask the miners to desist and come down.  Not only did the miners fail to respond to the Devon and Cornwall Politeness Manual they threw the PC down for good measure.

“Go get ’em boys, get them miners down off there and move them away”

So for our first time in the Strike we got down to business and did what were trained to do. Not that you train to scale a slag heap, but we were trained in how to move a crowd and put them where we wanted them to go.

For some reason County bosses always liked the Met to do these little jobs. Whether it was because we had cause to use our training more frequently in London so it became more natural for us, or so that after the Strike the bosses could blame any problems on those bully boys from the Met I don’t know, but I suspect it’s the latter.

There ensued what I believe is known as a skirmish.  At the end of it the miners were at the bottom of the slag heap and our Devon & Cornwall colleague was whole-heartedly thanking the Grockles for their timely intervention.

About half way back down the slag heap we encountered a miner, laying on the ground with his left leg protruding at a rather unnatural angle.  Even to our inexpert eyes it didn’t look right.  We offered to render some First Aid but his response was merely “thank you very much lads, but I’ll be alright, just leave me here”.  So we left him where he had fallen, but on arrival at the bottom of the slag heap we did the honourable thing and called him an Ambulance

And so ended our introduction to violence on the Picket Lines. Our tours of duty were never going to be peaceful again.

To be continued………….

Come On Cruella – Explain It To Us

Ii have heard many eloquent people highlighting the problems faced by Police and Public alike caused by the government’s reckless policy of repeatedly cutting the Police Budget.

I know that this problem applies to other PublicSectors also, but today I am concentrating solely on the Police.

It is frequently stated within the Police Service that if the reasons for doing something (for example Stop/Search, Kettling, Tasering) are explained to the public in a calm and reasonable manner then they will probably understand and possibly even support the action, or at the very least become less vociferous in their opposition. A calm explanation as to why I was Stop/Searching an apparently innocent person, the grounds and reason behind it, was frequently all that was required to defuse a tense situation and the person quite frequently went off perfectly happy.

So, Theresa May, David Cameron, why don’t you tell us, the Police and Public, just exactly why the cuts that you have already enacted, and the cuts that you have cued up for the next five years are actually ALL NECESSARY.

I have pointed out previously, on more than one occasion, that many of the 43 Forces have already shed more officers than they needed to to attain their 2015 Austerity Target set by HMIC.  Please explain to us calmly, in a language that we can all understand, why this was necessary.

Please explain to us why, when other public services find their budgets ring-fenced, the Police Budget is not.

Why is the Foreign Aid Budget ring-fenced and the Police Budget not?

Please explain to us why we keep hearing the mantra “Crime Is Down” to justify the cuts when overall demand on the Police Service is UP.

So would you please explain to us all quite calmly all of your reasons for decimating what used to be the finest Police Service in the world.  If you try and explain in a non-confrontational manner we might just understand and agree with you, possibly not, but go on try it, what do you have to lose?

The impression amongst the Police Service is that you are on a mission to destroy the Police Service, well you need to remember that the vast majority of the British Public have no connections with the Police Service whatsoever, but they still need for a Police Service to exist to report their crimes, deal with their Anti-Social Behaviour, maintain their public tranquility ( The Queen’s Peace) etc etc.

Demand UP, Establishment DOWN please explain to us why, JUSTIFY IT.


Ponder This Cruella

Thursday saw a bizarre event.

The people voted and it seems that the people voted for five more years of Cuts and Austerity, and that is absolutely the country’s right, if that’s what they want.

However, within 36 hours of the result being confirmed we had civil disorder outside Downing Street.

I am neither condoning nor discouraging civil disorder, but I AM anticipating it.

Are we heading for a new Summer of Discontent?  Because if we are, think on this, you and Milky have already disposed of over 17,000 warranted Police Officers since 2010, PCSO and Special Constabulary numbers are also down I believe, as are Police Staff.  If this isn’t bad enough you’ve kept your job and are about to embark on 5 more years of cuts leading to the loss of a similar number more.

What are you going to do when the wheel comes off?  When the Met has to ask for Mutual Aid like it did in 2011 something has gone terribly pear-shaped.  We’ve got even less than that now, more destined to go, where will the Mutual Aid come from.  17,000 officers, as has been pointed out elsewhere, is the equivalent of FOUR entire Police Forces along the South Coast, and you intend to DOUBLE that? Think about it I implore you.

Take a look at what happened only yesterday.

Can you hear the people sing?

Can You?

who you gonna call

Memoirs From A Picket Line – Part Three

The second episode of any note found me billeted at an Army Camp somewhere on the outskirts of Grantham.

Prince William of Gloucester Barracks, Grantham

Prince William of Gloucester Barracks, Grantham

As far as I can remember we didn’t see a single striking miner for the entire duration of our week stay.  We thought that we were going to be in for a boring week.  How wrong were we.

Having finished our first, completely uneventful day on the picket line we collectively decided to give the NAAFI a swerve and find a local hostelry.

We settled on a pub, the name of which escapes me, but I remember it being at the bottom of a steep hill.  This was OK going, it was literally all downhill.  The problem came at chucking out time, a few pints the worse, and faced with a steep climb back up the hill to bed.

Some made the climb, some phoned for a cab, but we all got back before the witching hour, in time to get a few hours sleep before breakfast, and the start of boring Day Two.

Just as we were thinking that the highlight of our day was going to be the decision how many sausages to have with breakfast life unexpectedly got a whole load more interesting.

A Chief Inspector in full uniform burst into the feeding hall and interrupted our breakfast. “Listen up you lot, this is important”. That grabbed our attention.  Then amidst flecks of foam from his frothing mouth he proceeded to tell us how someone had stolen a car from the pub car park and crashed it outside the gates of the Army Camp. It was obviously one of you Met a Boys so was it? “Come on, own up, or else”. Not a word, deathly silence.

Our hero tried again, a bit more agitated this time, but the result was the same, stunned, stony silence.

“If nobody is going to own up then I have no alternative but to confine you to camp except for when you’re at the pit” “no buggering off down to the pub, you’re all grounded”.  He seemed genuinely taken aback at the rapturous applause and cheering this last pronouncement invoked.  He was last seen shuffling away shaking his head.

Not to be completely had over we just reverted to Plan A, drank in the NAAFI and didn’t go out. On a personal level it didn’t bother me at all. A drink is just a  drink after all.  Work, NAAFI, sleep was how the rest of the week went, until our final day when once again breakfast was interrupted by a local officer, a very sheepish looking Sergeant this time.  He had been sent by Chief Inspector Arsehole, who was apparently too busy to come himself, to tell us the fingerprint examination of the crashed vehicle had been done and a local car thief identified and arrested, so it wasn’t one of you at all.
We knew this, didn’t need telling.

We ended the week happy, Chief Inspector Arsehole was clearly too busy to be embarrassed.  We returned to London smiling, without a stain on our characters. Not everybody in the Met is a car thief guv.

To be continued………….


ADDENDUM

It has been suggested to me that the pub in question might have been The Black Dog.  Any ideas?

I Can’t Quite Work It Out

The people have voted, and it seems like they’ve got Camoron for another full term.

I don’t agree with them, but I can see why the Jocks have voted SNP, at least that makes some kind of sense.

The rest of the UK have voted for some strange things

They have voted for a much reduced Police Service with a much hampered ability to respond to our various problems.

They have voted for a much reduced Armed Forces, they are at their lowest strength for decades and getting smaller.

They have voted for an NHS in danger of being dismantled and privatised.  Starved of funding, forced to fail, cue private companies riding in to pick up the pieces and rescue them.

They have voted for a shackled Justice system.

They have voted for a slimline Coastguard Service.

They have voted for Probation, Education and Prison Services to be neutered or privatised.

What do all of the above have in common?  None of them sell anything.  Traditionally they have all been sectors that soak up money without the ability to make a profit. How could they?  Until very recently consecutive governments have accepted that fact and whilst there have been minor cuts and Efficiency Drives along the way, it was always accepted that they were sectors that had to have money pumped into them to make them work with no option of getting a profit out at the end. It has always been that way, and I don’t see how it could be any different to that.  Oh, hang on,……..Privatisation might help.

They have voted for Bankers Bonuses.

They have voted for Outsourcing

I truly hope that the the great British Public do not find the need for the NHS, do not ever need a Police Officer, I hope their kids are properly educated, I hope they never need a Coastguard etc etc, because the shape of this country has changed irrevocably, and it’s what the country has voted for.

I didn’t, my conscience is clear, but very many did. I have heard it described as selfish voting. Who knows?

I leave you with one last thought, Be very careful what you wish for because you might get it.

Memoirs From A Picket Line – Part Two

I can’t for the life of me remember where we were billeted this week, but I’ll never forget the name of the place that we did our finest work – Coalville, a little town in Leicestershire I believe.

The only thing missing in Coalville was the Driftweed, absolutely nothing happened. 

Coalville Colliery

Coalville Colliery

Our job, as usual, was to protect the pit from striking miners, but I don’t think we actually ever saw any.  Twelve hours a day on Fixed Points around the mine in the middle of winter, guarding something that was never threatened.
It was at Coalville that I personally first became aware of the politics and mind games that were being played out with the Police as the pawns.

It was a bloody cold week in mid winter. Everybody, Police, miners, be they striking or not, members of the public, was cold, very cold.  At each of our fixed points we were provided with a brazier and a radio.  Whenever we ran out of oak for the brazier we were to use the radio to call up the Control Room and the National Coal Board would supply and deliver a JCB bucket load of free coal.  We, at least, were no longer cold.

The coal that was delivered was in its crudest state, fresh out of the ground and contained some strange grey bits.  To this day I don’t know what those grey bits were but we quickly discovered that if you put them in the brazier with the coal then they exploded.  It was probably best to make sure there were none as we put shovel loads of coal into our brazier.
The week went like clockwork. Every day, 12 hours standing by one of the braziers making sure it never went out. Not a striking miner anywhere to be seen.

Eventually we reached the end of a completely eventful week, and a coach load of Leicestershire lads arrived to relieve us.  The main problem was that they were in no hurry to get off their coach and take over from us so that we could leave and return to London for our ‘free’ day off.

“Don’t worry lads, you stay there, we’ll Stoke up the brazier so you don’t get cold”.  So into the brazier went a couple of shovels full of coal, a goodly helping of coal dust, so that it didn’t burn too quickly, and a liberal sprinkling of the mysterious grey bits.

Not long after that the Leicestershire lads debussed and relieved us, and I have it on good authority that about 15 minutes later the brazier exploded in spectacular fashion.

Honour was restored.

If you’re out there Sooty, reading this, I want to pay credit to one of the finest Sergeants I ever served with. Never going to set the world on fire, or maybe even make Inspector, but one of that rare breed that had mastered the art of being your friend, and at the same time getting you to do your job merely by asking you to.

To be continued………….