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09 JUN 2011

Law Society march to Downing Street to protest against legal aid cuts

Sound Off For JusticeCampaigners against legal aid cuts yesterday marched to 10 Downing Street to deliver a letter to the Prime Minister, David Cameron, urging him to intervene over the government's plans to cut legal aid funding.

The Sound Off For Justice campaign, led by the Law Society, is lobbying the government over proposed cuts to the legal aid budget which they say will leave thousands of vulnerable Britons without access to justice.

The campaigners marched from Westminster and were joined by members of the shadow justice team including Sadiq Khan MP and Andy Slaughter MP, along with Lord Bach. 

Signatories of the letter delivered to Number 10 include the 208,000 members of the Women's Institute, the one million members of the UK's leading parenting website Netmums, The Children's Law Centre and the Citizen's Advice Bureau's campaign, Justice For All.

The open letter asks David Cameron to consider the Law Society's alternative proposals that will save £384 million (£34 million in excess of what is being sought) by improving efficiency within the system, better use of technology, capping lawyer fees and greater scrutiny for abuses in the system and ensure cases involving education, unemployment, housing and clinical negligence can continue to rely on legal aid. 

The letter was delivered to mark the first reading of the Justice Bill, expected in parliament over the next week, where the Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke, will outline plans to cut to legal aid in light of the 5,000 responses received following publication of its green paper on the Reform of Legal Aid in England and Wales. The march to Downing Street comes after a day of national protest on last Friday, where hundreds of voluntary organisations and community groups rallied to voice their disdain at the government's plans.

Commenting ahead of the march to Downing Street, the Law Society's CEO, Des Hudson said:"We're delivering this letter to Downing Street to show the government just how concerned Britons are about these ill-conceived cuts to legal aid services. These cuts will affect the most vulnerable people in our society, such as women trying to escape abusive marriages or children left permanently disabled because of clinical negligence. So we're urging David Cameron, Ken Clarke and the government to consider our alternative reforms so that all Britons can continue to access legal aid to help fight wrongful decisions in court"

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