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Promises, Promises... a Manifesto Roundup

View profile for Henrietta  Bennett
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The last week has been a whirlwind of manifesto madness. With key parties across the UK telling us what the future of Britain looks like for them the hot topics are Brexit and immigration, but what does the legal landscape of England and Wales look like according to the parties everyone’s watching: Conservative/Labour/the Liberal Democrats. 

The Human Rights Act

The Conservative Party are sticking to their word and emphasising that they will not bring the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights into UK Law following Brexit. They will, however, remain signatories to the ECHR for the duration of the next Parliament and will not repeal or replace the Human Rights Act until we leave the EU.

The Liberal Democrats pledge to vote against any attempts to scrap the Human Rights Act or withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights. They wish to strengthen the UK’s commitment to international human rights law and introduce a digital bill of rights. Amongst recent privacy law claims, the Lib Dems want to protect people’s powers of their own information and support individuals over large corporations to preserve the neutrality of the internet.

Unlike the lengthy action plans of the above two parties, Labour simply state their wish to retain the Human Rights Act – keeping our rights intact.

Legal Aid

A hot topic for many, the 2017 manifestos have interesting views on the future for legal aid…

Conservatives want to strengthen legal services regulation and specifically restrict legal aid for ‘unscrupulous law firms that issue vexatious legal claims against the armed forces’.

The Lib Dems seek to secure further funding for criminal legal aid from sources other than the taxpayers – including insurance for company directors and changes to restraint orders. They want to conduct an urgent and comprehensive review of the effects of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act on access to justice. They refer in particular to funding for social welfare appeals and domestic violence in exceptional cases.

Labour will review the legal aid means test, including the capital test for those on income-related benefits. They will reintroduce funding for the preparation of judicial review cases in order to hold government to account with sufficient safeguards to discourage unmeritorious cases. They will also consider the reinstatement of other legal aid entitlements after receiving the final recommendations of the Access to Justice Commission led by Lord Bach.

The Courts

The Conservative Party tell us that they will modernise the courts by improving court buildings and facilities to make it easier for people to resolve disputes and ensure justice. They want to make sure that child victims and victims of sexual violence are able to be cross-examined before their trial without the distress of having to appear in court. They also discuss the introduction of publicly-funded advocates who will have specialist training in handling victims before taking on serious sexual offences cases.

The Lib Dems will modernise the criminal courts and review the investigation, prosecution, procedures and rules of evidence in cases of sexual and domestic violence.

Labour will immediately re-establish early advice entitlements in Family Courts. They highlight that the ‘shameful consequences of withdrawal’ have included a requirement for victims of domestic abuse to pay doctors for certification of their injuries. Labour plans to remove that requirement and also legislate to prohibit the cross-examination of victims of domestic violence by their abuser in certain circumstances. The party will not prohibit the courts from raising money to provide services, but introduce a ratio to establish the maximum difference between actual costs and charges levied. They will continue to extend the use of technology in our court service where it enhances access to justice, timely dispute resolution and efficient administration.

Case Law Influencers

The Justice sections of the mentioned manifestos all had interesting references to case law in justifying certain policies – we see which cases packed the largest punch below…

The Conservative Party reference the Hillsborough inquests, telling the public that to avoid a repetition of the pain endured by the Hillsborough families they will introduce an independent public advocate who will act for bereaved families after a public disaster and support them at public inquests.

Topically, the Liberal Democrats look to commence Part 2 of the Leveson inquiry as soon as practicable – investigating the culture, practices and ethic of the British press following the News International phone hacking scandal.

Labour will hold public inquiries into historic injustices, such as the Battle of Orgreave and blacklisting. They look to release all papers relating to the Shrewsbury 24 trials and the 37 Cammell Laird shipyard workers.

The Verdict

Take from the manifestos what you will! Whilst those working in public law may rejoice at Labour’s policies, IP firms may welcome the Lib Democrats proposal for a digital bill of rights and the Conservative Party may make visiting the courts a more pleasurable experience.

We at Fisher Meredith are (of course) impartial but urge you to consider the above when making a vote for your future and the future of your clients.