Beyond the current Ministry of Justice/Reform UK 'think tank' consultation on their 'future is digital' vision for the bald mechanics of justice admin
"May I suggest a social theology .... rooted in the experience of the poorest UK citizens."
— Revd Paul Nicolson, founder of Taxpayers Against Poverty (1)
".... the periscope allows the commander of the submarine only limited vision. The periscope will show you only what you look at; if you don't look at something, you won't see it. And the same is true of questions: one only gets what one asks for. If you don't ask for something, you won't get it."
"Questions put [the questioner] in command"
I am deeply concerned at the setting of the agenda and slanting of questions in the Ministry of Justice consultation Transforming Our Justice System that was launched on 15 September and is deadlined for Thursday 27 October.(4) I believe that the inception of the consultation owes more to the impact of bad laws on enforcement logistics while the crimes of government against poor people are treated as 'business as usual' or rather, completely overlooked.
Bad laws lead to the non-cooperation of fair minded adjudicators and create greater backlogs
More than 50 magistrates are understood to have resigned from the bench in recent weeks amid an extraordinary judicial revolt against new court charges which critics claim encourage innocent people to plead guilty.
Benefit reductions, stresses of poverty and badly financed public services including IAG [information, advice and guidance] meltdown drive more people into civil debt
Brent Council have come under-fire for issuing court summons over council tax arrears which has left 2,000 vulnerable residents footing a hefty bill of more than £250,000... (7)
"In 2015 our network of local offices advised 212,000 people on their council tax arrears. Amounts owed can range from as low as £30 to several thousands of pounds."— Citizens Advice report Catching Up: Improving council tax arrears collection(12)
Benefit cuts and 'transforming benefit tribunals'
Finally, I come the matter of proposed 'transformation of benefit tribunals' as outlined in Panel composition in tribunals. This has been correctly flagged up by Benefits and Work Publishing (BWP) as addressing the wrong issues and making it far more likely that injustices will be done to poor people. "Shaming appeal success rates" are an embarrassment to government, BWP argued in a news item Virtual abolition of PIP, DLA and ESA tribunals as we know them.(14) Of course, those 'shaming appeal success rates' indicate that injustices have been committed that tribunals need to redress. As a 'Benefits appeal panel member' put it:
Although the MoJ states it does not collect data on the outcomes of different types of hearing, research by the University College London Judicial Institute and the Nuffield Foundation in 2013 found claimants almost three times as likely to win an appeal for disability living allowance (DLA) after an oral hearing than paper alone (46%, compared to 17%).(17)....Steve Donnison, co-founder of Benefits and Work,(18) a not-for-profit benefits advice resource, explains: “Appeal panels have to make a decision about the honesty and credibility of an appellant. It’s far easier for them to make this judgment if the claimant is in front of them answering their questions.”
This disadvantage is exacerbated by the fact, which advocates stress, that many claimants appealing a decision aren’t actually aware of the criteria for being eligible for benefits. “And when the appeal is by paper, the tribunal has no way of filling in the gaps in the evidence,” Donnison adds. “So they can’t make an award.”
Government crimes against poor disabled benefit claimants as "business as usual"
My closing questions
- If torture is contrary to international law, what about the psychologic tortures inflicted by the DWP in the name of 'welfare reform' and the tortures imposed by local councils in the way they force people to pay unpayable Council Tax?
- Should not the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) repeal the unjust laws that have led magistrates to resign in their droves?
- Should not the MoJ compel the DWP to adopt rule 43 from benefit suicides courts that Iain Duncan Smith treated with contempt?(21)
- Is not the agenda for the MoJ consultation too much driven by digital companies and privatisation? Compare the content of these reviews with the keyword search 'magistrates' on the website of 'think tank' ReformUK. http://www.reform.uk/?s=magistrates
- Is not it high time that disabled people ourselves were consulted in the drafting of government consultations?
By Dude Swheatie of Kwug
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