The anti-austerity cuts group UK Uncut has unveiled plans to blockade roads across the UK in a mass civil disobedience.
The group intends to conduct the roadblock protests tomorrow in opposition to the coalition government's proposed changes to legal aid.
These 'Road Blocks for Justice' will take place in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Cambridge, Hull, Northampton and Norwich and will be, says UK Uncut (www.uncut.org.uk), '…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'.
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."
England's most senior family judge, Sir James Munby, recently said of the cuts:
"It is disconcerting that something so fundamental – the right to a proper defence when a great officer of state seeks to have you imprisoned – should be dependent upon the willingness of the bar and its instructing solicitor to act without fee…..There is I am told, no other basis upon which public funding can be made available in a case such as this. If this is really so, it might be thought that something needs to be done".
The government claims that legal aid costs need to be cut, but Dr Nick Armstrong of the Matrix Chambers has challenged this saying that the £6 million saved would '…be dwarfed by on-costs of nearly £30 million'. Some ground has already surrendered on the issue by the government when it was forced to backtrack on removing the right of legal aid defendants to choose their solicitor.
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 (www.planestupid.com) and Fuel Poverty Action (www.fuelpovertyaction.org.uk/).