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In late 2010, The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) published its Green Paper outlining proposals to dramatically cut civil legal aid. The proposed changes would mean the most vulnerable in society could find themselves without access to justice, affecting ‘trivial’ issues like the right to fight against unfair dismissal, the protection of battered women or fighting for custody of children.
The legal aid bill - after the health and welfare bill - was the 3rd most contested bill in parliament. The level of opposition to the bill can be measured in the more than 238 amendments that were tabled against the government.
The work we delivered with the Sound Off for Justice Campaign represents the biggest defeat for the coalition government in this parliament and the largest overturn of any government bill in 50 years.
Our campaign resulted in over 176 amendments being made to the bill and a number of significant defeats for the government in parliament. A number of key concessions were seen in a number of crucial areas including domestic violence and children's cases and the removal of 'clause 12', focused on the right to a lawyer whilst in police custody. We safe guarded the financial support for victims of industrial disease so they had access to the funds to claim compensation for their disease.
In terms of targeting, we aimed this more at ABC1’s with a track record of fighting injustices, we partnered with over 31 NGO'S from civil society (Netmums, Mumsnets, Rights of Women, the Women's Institute, AvMA, Resolution etc) whilst behind the scenes looked to influence government and parliamentarians from all sides.
We created a number of campaign tools including the worlds first voicemail campaign where the public could leave messages for the Minister of Justice Ken Clarke. We established a campaign website, films, social media, delivered free black cabs, protest events with a cake of Magna Carta, and the Sound Off for Justice choir performed on many occasions.
To highlight the victims of the legal aid cuts and the Jackson reforms we worked with case studies from the partner charities and well known cases such as the families of Milly Dowler, Andrew Green and Rheagan Hendry - whose mother died as a result of medical complications - who all delivered petitions to David Cameron and Nick Clegg.
We commissioned six reports which provided the empirical evidence and the impact of the government cuts. These were launched at media round tables and used to brief and inform parliamentarians.
We achieved 806 pieces of print coverage with an OTS of 446,696,341, Guardian/Observer pieces – 47, Daily Telegraph/Sunday Telegraph pieces – 14, The Times/Sunday Times – 7, 120 pieces of regional coverage, and over 40 articles on political blogs such as the Left Foot Forward, the Huffington Post and Liberal Voice.
When it came to broadcast we delivered over 23 news pieces on current affairs programs.