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UK Uncut promise disruption over legal aid changes
Roadblock protests in opposition to changes to legal aid will go ahead, campaign group UK Uncut have confirmed, as the inquiry into the changes by the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) draws to a close . The JCHR had written to the Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, asking that legal aid changes should not be implemented before the inquiry is able to report, a request that has been refused .
UK Uncut spokesperson Jim Thompson said: “Time and time again, this government has signalled its contempt for the principle of access to justice; refusing to wait for the Joint Committee on Human Rights’ inquiry findings before implementing its legal aid proposals is just one example of this.”
“Changes announced earlier this month do not alter the government’s fundamental assault on the foundations of the democratic system through these proposals, which are deliberately designed to further marginalise the most vulnerable people in our society.”
He continued: “Because the government has continually refused to listen, UK Uncut’s Roadblocks for Justice protests will happen as planned on October 5th. We know that this will be disruptive. We know that it will stop the traffic. But we know that this kind of direct action works.”
The activists plan for roadblocks in London and around the UK, and have enlisted the support of other direct action groups, including Disabled People Against the Cuts, Plane Stupid and Fuel Poverty Action [3, 4, 5]. The protest groups explain that their actions would be “symbolically highlighting the devastating effect the changes will have on access to justice”. 
The government’s reforms have come under increasing criticism, with England’s most senior family judge recently describing them as ‘disconcerting’ and suggesting that ‘something needs to be done’ . In July, the government was forced to backtrack on a key part of the reforms, that of removing the right of legal aid defendants to choose their solicitor, following protests .
The government claims that changes will improve efficiency in the legal system , but this claim has been challenged by research showing that the estimated £6m savings will be dwarfed by £30m in knock-on costs .
Sarah Price of UK uncut said “The changes in legal aid are an assault on the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. By insisting on these so-called ‘cuts’ the government takes away our ability to challenge their decisions, allowing them to cut deeper and without legal challenge.”
Lynn Jacobs, a UK uncut supporter said “I will be supporting this action because I have already seen the impact of legal aid changes. I fled an abusive relationship and was not sure what to do to protect myself. Because of the changes to legal aid I could not afford get a court order to protect myself from my ex-partner. I feel sad that the government does not want to help to protect me, and women like me, from violence. Why can’t the government make companies pay their fair share instead of punishing people like me?”
Notes to editors:
 http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/joint-select/human-rights-committee/news…. The inquiry, into ‘the implications for access to justice of the government’s proposed legal aid reforms’, will stop taking written submissions on Friday 27 September 2013.
 These comments were made in a recent court case and are recorded as part of the official transcript. See http://www.marilynstowe.co.uk/2013/08/23/family-division-president-says-legal-aid-cuts-disconcerting…