John Halewood-Dodd column: We think we may have won the battle but not the war ‑ yet

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Last Friday, the 28th of June, saw the e-petition raising concerns about Government proposals to overhaul the Criminal Legal Aid system reach over 100,000 signatories.

This was the number required to force the issue to be debated in Parliament.On Monday of this week the Ministry of Justice announced a u-turn on the most controversial element of that overhaul by confirming that they were no longer proposing that those in need of a Criminal Defence Solicitor be denied the opportunity to instruct their solicitor of choice.

A victory for common sense but the war is not yet won! Those of us opposed to the swingeing cuts proposed to the Legal Aid budget will continue the fight, not in “fat cat” self interest, but in the interests of Justice.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank those in this locality who have supported the campaign thus far, and who will hopefully continue to do so in the future.

Firstly, a mention for our colleagues at Holdens and Clarkson Hirst solicitors, the other remaining firms in this area who practice Criminal Defence, who have been equally as stoic in opposing these ill-thought out proposals.

However, what has been even more significant, and certainly more uplifting, is the support of local people.

Individuals have telephoned, written, e-mailed and attended our offices to emphasise that support and it really has made us feel that what we are doing is worthwhile. I have been stopped in Lancaster city centre by all walks of people to urge that we carry on.

That level of support has been invigorating and I really believe that the Government will have to listen to what we, the ones at the coalface, have to say once again, heartfelt thanks to everyone who has taken the time to voice their support.