Thursday, 8 September 2011

The attack on legal representation scares me

Yesterday was long and involved with 2 cases that promise to frustrate and irritate – and tell me that someone(s) among the local police have far too much dramatic flare.

I have case 1 that basicly involves a lot of late teens-early 20s guys who had a skinful and met another group of same. Words Were Exchanged. Then considerably more than words were exchanged. *yawn* Bread and butter stuff, right? Except for some reason I'm being presented with charges for organised crime and gang activity. *side-eye* These guys quite literally couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery

We also have a lovely attempt to prove drug dealing apparently managed by taking all the illicit substances they ALL had (that is both sides of the fight), pooling it into one and declaring that it all belongs to one person. *sigh* Oh and yes Mr. policeman, you were right to blush when I just stared at you when you declared “but they all said it wasn't theirs.”

Now case 2 is a 19 year old who has been dragged in for, basically, being a pimp. Living off the immoral earnings of a prostitute, don'tchaknow. Thankfully his sister (the aforementioned prostitute) was present and irritated and able to talk to me (I'd represented her and some friends of hers before). She doesn't have a pimp, as I already knew (she actually has a co-op) but what she does have is a very scared and confused kid brother who she has “leant” a little money to. And while she finds her little brother to be not very bright, in sore need of some direction and a good dose of common sense, she thinks that pimp is a little harsh.

Which brings me to this article in the Guardian. Now beyond pretty much representing a huge amount of what I do it also refers to the ongoing and terrifying attempt by the government to destroy any attempts at legal representation in this country for anyone who cannot afford it – and who isn't educated or aware enough to realise when they need it.

Between legal aid being slashed, means-testing and Ken Clarke's truly repellent proposal, this vital right is under threat. And police already do everything in their grubby power to deny it as much as they can (Someare mentioned here, I've seen these tricks the endless “if we get a lawyer it'll take longer.” “If you get a lawyer you look guilty.” “If you get a lawyer you won't be out of here until tomorrow morning” The excuses, the dodges – and the outright lies are told nightly over and over again. This just adds more ammunition to a force that is already working tooth and nail to deny this right).

I cannot stress how important the right to have a lawyer is in a police station, how hostile a police station is. How very often I've found not even the slightest pretence or attempt at justice would depress me if it didn't enrage me so. Whenever I feel worn down by this job – and believe me I do, between clients who've attacked me, endless amounts of puddles of vomit I've had to step over and truly record breaking vile people I've had to spend time trapped in a small room with, I have loathed this job – all I have to do is think back to the gazillion time I've seen people railroaded, deceived, abused and generally shit on by some arsehole in a uniform – and the many times when the only reason this didn't happen – or the only reason it was stopped – was because I Was There.

Now those drunken brawlers with their recreational personal drug use are not going to be charged as drug dealing gang members. Nor is that silly kid going to be charged as a pimp. If I, or someone like me, hadn't been there however? I don't know.

The direction we're heading in is a frightening one – justice, never especially common – is getting rarer and harder to come by and how much damage will we do to ourselves before we demand it stop?