Addressing advocates at the Assise d’Héritage – an ancient ceremony led by the Bailiff to mark the start of the legal year – Bâtonnier Advocate David Cadin said the new Access to Justice law ‘needs to come into effect and soon’.
His comments come after the JEP reported yesterday that Jersey’s lawyers had been asked to consider strike action due to dissatisfaction with the new Council of Ministers and the Bailiff over plans to modernise the legal aid system.
In an email to Law Society members, John Kelleher, the organisation’s president, claimed proposed changes to the Access of Justice Law would see lawyers’ influence over the legal aid system reduced and result in more Islanders being potentially eligible for free or discounted legal advice under the scheme.
Yesterday, Advocate Cadin told the Royal Court that the current Legal System was ‘unsustainable’ and said the proposed changes were drawn up following a review carried out by expert and political panels.
States Members were due to debate the new Access to Justice laws earlier this year but the legislation was called in for review by the Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel and still has not been re-lodged by Chief Minister John Le Fondré.
‘The new scheme needs to come into effect and soon,’ Advocate Cadin said.
‘To amend the draft law at this stage, outside the Access to Justice review and without regard for compromises made over these five years would be unwinding a delicate balance. It could place us in a difficult position particularly if you read the headlines in today’s JEP.’
Meanwhile, also during the ceremony, the Bailiff Sir William Bailhache said the courts needed to be aware of the current threats to the rule of law in order to be able to ‘guard against them being a reality’.
One of these threats he said was ‘intemperate inaccurate or inappropriate’ coverage either on social media or by the mainstream media.
In regards to social media, Sir William said ‘uninformed opinions’ are ‘given free rein and are insidiously damaging’, adding they ‘almost certainly affect the respect which the organs of the state including the judiciary need to have if the system of government is not to break down’.
He added: ‘It is the duty of us all to ensure that not only do we conduct ourselves appropriately when using social media, but also that we are astute to appreciate that those who do not do so are wrong, and should be castigated for it.
‘Sitting back quietly and tut tutting but saying nothing is the way in which freedom is attacked.’
Sir William also said it would be ‘undesirable’ if media outlets ‘were to permit their businesses to be used for the promotion of uninformed gossip or chatter, particularly if that is aimed at the integrity of any of the organs of government’.