At the Bush Theatre in London “The Invisible” is currently showing. This brilliant and heart-wrenching play was written by the award-winning writer, Rebecca Lenkiewicz, and showcases the human impact of the legal aid cuts, particularly since LASPO 2013.
The Law Society of England and Wales sponsored “the Invisible”, and last night outgoing Law Society President, Andrew Caplen, hosted a preview evening that Elizabeth Simos and I were invited to attend.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Caplen explained that the Law Society had decided to sponsor this play because the theme so clearly chimed with the Access to Justice Campaign launched under his Presidency in September 2014. “The fundamental concept of the rule of law,” he explained “is nothing more than an ideal if people cannot obtain access to justice.”
Lenkiewicz’s play is based on interviews with real people at all levels of the UK justice system. The play movingly tells the stories of how ordinary people’s lives have been affected by the cuts to legal aid, and examines how the cuts are driving ever deeper cracks into the fabric of our society. With cuts currently totalling £350 million, the reforms to the legal aid system are arguably one of the biggest threats to human rights in the UK today.
It is a timely production that focuses predominantly on the cuts that have already occurred in areas including housing, family, employment and private client. However, it also comes at a time when further severe cuts to the justice system are expected, particularly in the area of criminal defence. Since 1 July 2015, criminal solicitors took the difficult decision to in unison refuse to take on further legal aid work until the government agrees to pay proper fees for this challenging and vital work that ensures that people’s rights are protected and that the rule of law in the UK is upheld.
Working for a firm in the heart of the local community of Battersea, which still takes on some legal aid work where possible, Elizabeth and I both found this play to be a realistic portrayal of the challenges facing practitioners and clients at a time when funding for legal advice is so difficult to access for those who cannot afford to pay.
Those attending the evening included Andy Slaughter (MP for Hammersmith); Jonathan Smithers (incoming Law Society President); and Professor Sara Chandler (2nd Vice President of the Federation of European Bar Associations FBE).
We would like to take this opportunity to thank the Law Society for their hospitality and to encourage others to go and see the play. To find out more click here