Parties set out their justice stalls


A Conservative government will not repeal the Human Rights Act during the Brexit process and will keep the UK signed up the European Convention on Human Rights for the next Parliament.

The party’s 88-page manifesto contained other surprises, including plans to incorporate the Serious Fraud Office into the National Crime Agency and repeal s 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2014, which would have forced newspapers to pay the costs of libel and privacy actions even if they won. The Tories will not proceed with part two of the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press.

It promises tougher regulation of tax advisory firms, strengthened legal services regulation and a crackdown on ‘exaggerated and fraudulent’ whiplash claims.

An Independent Public Advocate will act for bereaved families in inquests and legal aid will be restricted for ‘unscrupulous law firms that issue vexatious legal claims against the armed forces’.

In their manifestos Labour and the Liberal Democrats promised to review the legal aid cuts. A Labour government would reinstate some of the 2013 legal aid cuts, including for private family law, cap court fees and open an inquiry into the 1984 ‘Battle Orgeave’ clash between miners and the police. It also pledged to introduce no-fault divorce.

The Liberal Democrats promised an ‘urgent and comprehensive review’ of the 2013 legal aid cuts, to reverse court fees and protect judicial review. It pledged to ‘secure further funding for criminal legal aid from sources other than the taxpayer, including insurance for company directors, and changes to restraint orders’.

The Bar Council and Law Society also published manifestos. In its Manifesto for Justice, the Bar Council criticised Lord Chancellor, Liz Truss for failing to ‘stand up for the judges’ when they were attacked in the press over the Brexit ruling (see 'Value of justice', Counsel, June 2017).

It called on the next government to ‘demonstrate its commitment to uphold the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law’ and to reverse some of the legal aid cuts, highlighting in particular the need to fund representation in housing, immigration and welfare cases.

In its wish-list, the Law Society’s Our vision for law and justice called for the reinstatement of legal aid, particularly in housing and family case, and the scrapping of employment fees, but it was silent on the role of the Lord Chancellor.

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