`National disgrace’, they assert
25th June 2010: RMJ solicitors, writing in a personal capacity, have described as national disgrace the suffering and risk refugees and migrants were being made to undergo due to their close down.
They have asserted much damage has been done and it was their clients who were being put most at risk and made to suffer for political reasons. This was nothing short of a national disgrace.
In a letter carried by the Law Gazette, Amy Grey, Andrea Muckley, Anna Blackden and Augustine Machi and other RMJ solicitors, in their personal capacity, have asserted on 16 June Refugee and Migrant Justice, one of the largest legal aid providers in the UK for refugees and migrants, went into administration because of cash flow problems caused by a legal aid contracting regime, which prevented them from billing their work in progress until the closure of cases.
Since RMJ went into administration, the Legal Services Commission has failed to engage with them, as solicitors, about securing the best interests of their thousands of clients; many of them children, all of them highly vulnerable.
Other willing firms have been told not to take on their clients until the LSC decides where they could go. They have been told simply to box up all clients’ files and the LSC would write our client care letters.
`What kind of ‘care’ we ask? We have had every obstacle put in the way of maintaining our professional obligations to our clients and ensuring that their best interests are kept uppermost on an administrative timetable of impossible haste.
`RMJ is a high-quality legal aid supplier by all objective measures. Massive professional and public support bears this out and we are enormously grateful for our colleagues’ support, both practical and moral.
`We are not being closed down on an intervention for improprieties or misconduct, but are being treated as if we were. The LSC, despite repeating its worn-out mantra that there is capacity in the system, has failed to show who will take on our clients and when, and to what standard. None of our clients has had any say in this process.
`The Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner have declined to take action to ensure that our clients are protected, and have revealed a major lacuna in regulatory functions. Our administrator has a singular purpose that cannot address the very real and pressing needs of our clients.
`We have over 300 dedicated solicitors, legal officers, caseworkers and support staff who stand to lose their jobs, whose professional duties and code of ethics have been compromised and tested to the very limits by a dysfunctional agency; and a Ministry of Justice that talks about access to justice but, in reality, puts up higher and higher barriers to those most in need,’ says the letter published by the Law Gazette.
The Law Society too has reacted at the government claims that inefficiencies at RMJ led to its collapse. The Society chief executive Desmond Hudson said the payment structure was at its lowest a major contributing factor in the collapse of RMJ.
He also termed as ‘inaccurate’ the government’s claim that all other organisations had coped with the payment regime. Hudson added cash flow problems had contributed to the closure of Gateshead and Cambridge law centres.