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Friday, 16 October 2015

Post 2 - Author The Solicitors Journal about us on 20th August 2015.

Launched at the Law Society this week, Bolts&Bars is a new access to justice tool on behalf of the 'voiceless'. Designed as a one-stop-shop for those interested in the incarcerated - not necessarily by court order - including immigrants, children, the elderly, and those with mental health conditions, it aims to provide valuable information about the UK's detention centres and offer a transparent forum for the imprisoned to share their experiences.

'Some people deserve to be in prison for their crimes but they still deserve to be heard,' said Bolts&Bars founder. 'But there is no excuse for young children, mentally ill people, or migrants not to be able to access the law.'

One prominent supporter of the project is notable barrister Flo Krause, who successfully acted for former prisoner John Hirst in his high-profile and contentious action against the blanket ban on prisoner voting, which left David Cameron feeling 'physically ill'.

Providing specific examples from two decades of practising prison law, Krause said: 'To be truly voiceless, somebody is not only unheard but unseen. People are put away into institutions and become voiceless. The institutions subsume them. They disappear behind walls and under the weight of rules and regulations. There is no one to witness their plight and no one to record the dramas that go on behind those thick walls.'

Also speaking at the launch, Russell-Cooke partner Peter Cadman observed that even in the 'good-old days of legal aid' there was an element of abandonment of clients by solicitors after conviction. Now, with funding squeezed ever tighter, the ability for firms to provide aftercare to clients is nearly impossible.

'The timing of this venture is excellent,' he added. 'We are at a time when the public purse is not paying lawyers to assist and represent, and at a time when the cost of keeping a prisoner in prison is so astronomic that the balance between the spend and the save is just wrong.'

Cadman said he hopes the project will help offenders navigate the penal system and calm the 'ripple effect' that impacts on a prisoner's family and friends by providing them the information needed to cope with an incarcerated loved one.

Although the Howard League has benefitted greatly from this silliest of seasons, the same cannot be said for Bolts&Bars. The event, which took place within the Law Society's 'magnificent' Common Room, far from reached the venue's attendance capacity. Barring a couple of legal journalists and invested supporters it was empty, despite 'hundreds' of emails declaring an interest in the launch.

The Bolts&Bars team clearly face an uphill battle. If you cannot get lawyers into a room to discuss our rotten prison estate, what hope have you of opening up various important issues to the wider public who are predisposed to thinking prisoners should forfeit their rights upon incarceration. Maybe, as SJ's Kevin Poulter has suggested, solicitors should reflect on the ways they support access to justice, perhaps by giving consideration to the work of Bolts&Bars.  Go to their website

John van der Luit-Drummond is deputy editor for Solicitors Journal

1 comment:

  1. What a blog post!! Very informative and also easy to understand. Looking for more such comments!! Do you have a facebook? I recommended it on digg. The only thing that it’s missing is a bit of new design.


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