On 29th July 2013, Lord Sheldon asked Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to reduce the number of suicides of children in prisons. The Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Revd Christopher Hill, asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of Guildford: Would the Minister care to comment, in the light of the reports of HM Inspectorate of Prisons of May this year on the increased violence at Ashfield and Feltham—it is 10 years to this month since the Commission for Racial Equality produced its report on Feltham—on the desirability of the elimination of the use of batons and routine strip searches in juvenile prisons?
Lord McNally: Every inclination I have is in that direction. Carrying on the policy of the previous Administration, we have tried to make sure that order and discipline in young people’s institutions of various kinds are maintained with the minimum of physical intervention and with the maximum attention on trying to manage difficult situations. A lot of the training addresses how the staff themselves are able to manage down situations before they become violent. However, we also have a duty of care to our staff and a duty of care to other inmates in these institutions, who may become victims of uncontrolled violence.
On 17th July 2013, Lord Bach moved a motion to regret on the Civil Legal Aid (Financial Resources and Payment for Services) Regulations 2013.The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, expressed concern that the level at which permitted disposable capital was set would render some older people in particular less capable of securing legal aid without selling their homes. He hoped that if vulnerable people’s access to legal representation were damaged by the regulations the government would change course on humanitarian grounds and not defend the regulations on the basis of a flawed ideology.
The Lord Bishop of Norwich: My Lords, a key reference in this Motion of Regret is to “vulnerable people”, which is why this non-lawyer dares to stand amid such legal luminaries and feels a bit vulnerable himself.
A civilised country is one where we are all free under the law and where vulnerable people are not left defenceless against unjust treatment by another person, organisation or even an agent of government. Vulnerability is relative, of course, but the calculations that inform the regulations under discussion concern people who may be a very long way, as we have heard, from financial comfort and security, and may have multiple other needs. Continue reading “Bishop of Norwich raises concerns with civil legal aid reforms”