Fast forward a couple of years on from those protests with the Grayling puppet down at Westminster. Next year legal aid hits 70. Very soon we’ll have a review of the impact of cuts in civil legal aid matters. A Tory MP and chair of the Justice Committee Bob Neill has already said there’s no shame in admitting the cuts have gone too far.
There are signs the tide is turning with public opinion. A recent survey for Justice Week found three quarters of people now believe that justice is as important as health or education. They also believe people on low incomes should have free legal advice. This is a marked sea-change. A shift in perception, indicating we may be breaking away from the lazy ‘fat cat lawyer’ stereotype image. (And no, my past is as a journalist, I have never been a lawyer.)
Nevertheless, as any teacher would say, there’s ‘no room for complacency’.
In the same public opinion survey a 13% of people believe that the state shouldn’t pay for legal expenses if someone is accused of an imprisonable offence. 13% – I’m no mathematician, but that’s a lot. Plenty more work to be done to show that defence lawyers don’t just ‘get criminals off the hook’.
Now then is the moment to make the case for justice. Rats, broken heating, collapsed ceilings are bleak metaphors. But they have their uses. If this doesn’t help to make the public care, what will?