Justice Matters: essays from the pandemic
£10, Legal Action Group
At the start of lockdown, I was pleasantly surprised that many of us were classed as ‘key workers’. I was half hoping that I would be stopped on the way to work and asked to explain my business. I could have replied with a flourish that I was a key worker representing people who were detained. It did not happen. It is probably less likely now that lawyers will be castigated by politicians for advising clients on the laws and rights that parliament enacts.
The coronavirus has brought other changes. People previously classed as low-skilled care and health workers are now feted. The epidemic has affected everyone in our profession in different ways. It has polarised everything. Some are too busy and others idle.
The justice system was already in difficulties before lockdown, with underfunded courts and seriously reduced legal aid. Some sectors in the community have been much more adversely affected than others and the pandemic has exposed inequalities in society.
This book contains over 40 essays by leading lawyers on a variety of subjects. These include immigration, mental health, crime, prison and housing. They vividly describe life in lockdown and call for a radical rethink of justice. Many of our vulnerable clients are suffering because of loss of face-to-face contact with lawyers, carers – or indeed anyone.
This is a call to action. One contributor nicely observes that we have got used to muting microphones but now is the time to unmute and speak up. There is an optimistic piece from an academic (although writing about academia) which makes points that are valid for the profession: ‘The move online – and the speedy acceptance of these new ways of working – has created opportunities.’ These are opportunities for making services more available and speeding up procedures, leading to fewer cases being adjourned and more time for clients.
This is an important book that we (and politicians) need to read.
David Pickup is a partner at Pickup & Scott Solicitors, Aylesbury