The High Court will tomorrow hear a judicial review case brought by Maya Evans, a peace and human rights activist, challenging the decision made by the Ministry of Justice in March 2010 to cut legal aid funding for cases brought wholly in the public interest. The court will hear evidence that the former Secretary of State for Defence and Minister for Armed Forces personally intervened to ensure that these cuts occurred.
The court will also hear that the Ministry of Defence was faced with a number of High Court challenges to UK acts of torture at the time that it sought to cut off their funding. One such case was brought by Maya Evans: challenging the lawfulness of the MoD policy of handing prisoners arrested by British forces to the Afghan National Directorate of Security (secret police), notorious for its use of torture. The case resulted in the public disclosure of serious allegations made by prisoners detained by British forces that they had been brutally tortured by the Afghan authorities. It resulted in a High Court ruling in the Claimant’s favour which ensured that future transfers would be subjected to a far more stringent set of safeguards than the MoD had chosen to operate, to the benefit of hundreds of prisoners. The case was brought by Ms Evans because the prisoners in question were held incommunicado and the MoD refused to advise them of the role of the British courts to protect them.
It is the decision to refuse to fund any such case in the future, no matter how serious the issues or the difficulties faced by future claimants in reaching a British court, that Ms Evans challenges tomorrow.
Speaking today, Maya Evans said:
“The Ministry of Defence has tried to cut off funding for politically inconvenient cases, but they have been caught in the act by the documents that have been disclosed in this case. Those documents will come to light at the hearing tomorrow.”
“In my previous case I had the opportunity to shine a light into the dark recesses of the UK’s torture policy in Afghanistan, to the benefit of hundreds of prisoners and, ultimately, the British public. That opportunity should be preserved for future concerned citizens.”
Her solicitor, Daniel Carey, said:
“This case is not about savings for the public purse – the Ministry of Justice estimates that ruling out funding for these cases in the future will save between £50,000 to £100,000 per annum – that’s less than some MPs’ expenses claims. This case is all about the Government’s attempts to avoid accountability under the guise of cutting the deficit. Any such attempt should be wholly rejected by anyone who cares about the rule of law.”
THE CASE WILL BE HEARD IN COURT No.1 AT THE ROYAL COURTS OF JUSTICE ON THE STRAND, LONDON AT 10.30am ON 5 APRIL 2011
For further information, contact:
Public Interest Lawyers
Daniel Carey, Solicitor
Telephone: 0121 515 5069
Mobile: 07815 089526
Jim Duffy, Solicitor
Mobile: 07912 691727
Mobile: 07973 484 202