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Friday, September 17, 2010

It's not OK to turn a prison into a conference centre!

It's not OK to turn a prison into a conference centre!

In today's Guardian Law Jon Robins writes:

Quality of legal aid is as important as access to a lawyer

Justice for vulnerable clients can be frustrated when lawyers are not up to the job

Experience shows that lawyers have relatively little knowledge of the specialised area of prison law, and some of these claim Legal Aid fees for providing prisoners with legal advice that is not worth the paper it is written on!

Before Jack Straw left office as the Minister of Justice, he arranged for the Legal Services Commission to cut the prison law Legal Aid budget which had risen from £1m in 2001/2 to £22m in 2008/9. What was not mentioned by either Jack Straw or the LSC was the sharp rise in cases challenging the MoJ's unlawful behaviour. Naturally, lawyers started to panic at the thought of their slice of the cake being severely reduced in size.

In steps what might appear to be their salvation. The Institute of Prison Law (IPL) has arranged a conference "Funding - How to survive the new funding arrangements". The cost? £199 + VAT (including lunch). The venue? H.M.Prison Latchmere House, London.

We are always being advised to read the small print. The so-called Director of IPL, a bogus college, is the former prisoner and conman and legally unqualified Mark Leech. The IPL claims to be approved by the Law Society and Bar Council. However, both these institutions only have the power to supervise qualified solicitors and barristers. Those lawyers who pay to advertise in Leech's publications are awarded his OK Logo. This is supposed to inform prisoners that they are competent in prison law.

What I would like to know from the Governor of Latchmere House and the MoJ, is why a prison is being turned into a conference centre to financially benefit an ex-prisoner who is still clearly a conman?

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