Legal Aid Bill: Lords decision is a dark day for justice
The rejection last night in the House of Lords of proposed amendments to the government’s Legal Aid Bill, is a huge blow to justice which will place the law beyond the reach of human rights victims, Amnesty International said today.
Under the government’s proposed changes, individuals or communities seeking to bring a case against a UK multinational company in a UK court will, in practice, no longer be able to afford to do so. Amnesty has been working to promote an amendment to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill (LASPO) which would have carved out an exception for human rights cases.
Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:
“This is a dark day for justice in the UK, and internationally. The government has placed legal remedy beyond the reach of human rights victims and slammed the doors of the UK courts shut on them.
“These changes are an open invitation to huge multinationals to operate with impunity around the world, as they can be confident they won’t be challenged or held to account in a UK court.”
Under the proposed changes, it is unlikely that victims such as the 69,000 people living in Bodo, Nigeria, would have been able to pursue a case against multinational oil company Shell, which recently admitted full culpability for two massive oil spills in the region. The spills have devastated livelihoods; food and water sources have been contaminated; and widespread health problems have resulted. Before the case was legally pursued in the UK, Shell offered the Bodo community “£3,500 together with 50 bags of rice, 50 bags of beans and a few cartons of sugar, tomatoes and groundnut oil”; a pitiful remedy in light of the company’s profits of £11.5 billion in 2010.
Amnesty will seek to publically highlight any cases which cannot be brought against UK companies due to these moves.