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Tory manifesto: Legal aid doesn’t get a look-in… apart from pledge to ‘restrict’ it in cases against the armed forces

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A pop at Leigh Day?

The Conservative Party has released its eagerly-awaited manifesto today. Sometimes what you don’t say is just as important as what you do say.

In the 88-page document, there is no mention of legal aid apart from this one:

We will… restrict legal aid for unscrupulous law firms that issue vexatious legal claims against the armed forces.

Falling under the heading ‘The finest servicemen and women’, we wonder whether this manifesto pledge has been born out of recent proceedings against Phil Shiner and Leigh Day.

Termed an “ambulance chasing” lawyer by the press, Shiner was struck off earlier this year over charges of dishonesty. Among other things, he was found to have paid a middleman in Iraq to seek out human rights abuse claims for him to bring against the Ministry of Defence.

Disciplinary action against Leigh Day and three of its lawyers is still ongoing. The charges — in the words of the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) barrister Timothy Dutton QC — relate to “allegations [by the firm] that soldiers in the British army had murdered, tortured and mutilated innocent Iraqi civilians. The allegations were false, and should never have been advanced in public.”

The case is forecasted to be the longest and most expensive in the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal’s (SDT) history.

On legal aid, it’s worth comparing the Tories and Labour here. In their manifesto, Jeremy Corbyn and co state that “justice today has become the preserve of the rich”, before adding:

Labour will immediately re-establish early advice entitlements in the family courts… We will reintroduce funding for the preparation of judicial review cases… We will review the legal aid means tests, including the capital test for those on income-related benefits.

Other key justice snippets from the Conservative manifesto — which can be read in full below — include: “we will continue to modernise our courts”. The Prisons and Courts Bill, part of the government’s bid to transform the justice system, was abandoned in the run up to this June’s general election.

In addition, the manifesto states that the Human Rights Act will not be repealed or replaced “while the process of Brexit is underway.” However, this position will be reconsidered post-EU withdrawal. There is a PS: “We will remain signatories to the European Convention of Human Rights for the duration of the next parliament.”

Read the manifesto in full here:

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