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UK Uncut to blockade roads in mass civil disobedience on legal aid cuts

UKUNCUTAnti-cuts direct action group UK Uncut have announced that roadblock protests will happen across the country tomorrow in opposition to the government’s proposed changes to legal aid.

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 protest group say their actions will be disruptive but that the government intends to block access to the courts for millions of ordinary people by making justice unaffordable, and is a proportionate response.

Protestors will block roads in seven towns and cities across the UK: London, Manchester, Liverpool, Cambridge, Hull, Northampton and Norwich. In London, protestors will meet at the Old Bailey at 11.30am, and during the roadblock will put the Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, on trial for ‘perverting the course of justice’. The protesters have organised bands, poetry and know your rights workshops to take place during the roadblock.

UK Uncut spokesperson Jim Thompson said:

The government’s proposals will destroy legal aid, blocking access to justice for all but the rich. We cannot allow this to happen. We know that our Roadblocks for Justice protests will be disruptive. We know that they will stop the traffic. But we also know that this kind of direct action works to make the government take notice. Rather than cutting free legal advice to prisoners, domestic violence victims and disabled people, they should be forcing Google to pay their fair share of tax.”

The government claims that changes will improve efficiency in the legal system and that the UK has one of the most expensive legal aid systems in the world, 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, like Google, pay their fair share instead of punishing people like me?”

The activists have enlisted the support of other direct action groups, including Disabled People Against the Cuts, Plane Stupid and Fuel Poverty Action.

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