Free Talha Asan!

The Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers looks forward to welcoming Talha Ahsan home to Britain on his release from custody in the US.  He committed no offence under British law and we question why he was extradited to the United States. He was detained for six years in Britain and then for another two years in the States, the latter period in solitary confinement in a supermax prison. No one should ever have to endure those conditions. He is one of the victims of the war on terror. We congratulate his family, friends and supporters on their tenacious campaign for his freedom, resulting in him being sentenced to “time served” and released.

For more information on the campaign to free Talha Asan, see

Haldane Society Condemns Death Threats Against Vice-President Phil Shiner and His Family

Phil Shiner has been subject to intimidation and harassment over the last 10 years as a result of his work for Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) and their cases representing Iraqis in war crimes cases.

Recently, Phil and PIL have worked on a number of issues including the Al Sweady Inquiry relating to Iraqi detainees, non-nationals receiving legal aid for judicial review cases and the decision by the International Criminal Court to investigate war crimes by the UK in Iraq.

As a result of his human rights advocacy work, Phil has experienced threats and intimidation for nearly 10 years, with, at one stage, a police investigation launched into the threats and a 2010 threat that led to a prosecution under the Malicious Communications Act 1988.

We understand that, as a result of a recent rise in the negative media attention paid to PIL, Phil has received an increasing number of abusive emails and phone calls.

The Haldane Society salutes the pioneering work carried out by Phil and PIL. Without their work, there would have been no recognition that Baha Mousah died as a result of assaults by British troops, that the British government’s obligations under the Human Rights Act 1998 extend to its actions abroad, and there would have been no justice for the victims and families of victims of human rights abuses committed by British troops. We are proud that Phil is a Vice-President of the Haldane Society and regularly gives lectures to our members and students.

We call on the police and CPS to ensure Phil Shiner’s safety and that of his family.

With or Without the CBA, the Fight Continues

The Haldane Society condemns the decision of the CBA, without reference to its members, to purport to suspend the industrial action taken by criminal barristers against the government's attacks on legal aid.  Criminal barristers within the Haldane Society take the view that it is not for the leadership of the CBA to tell our profession whether or not we will take action in solidarity with our comrades in the solicitors profession, and within the civil bar.  If there is to be any suspension of further action, it should be a decision of the members of the profession taken at a general meeting at which all are free to attend, so that the matter can be discussed openly. 

The concessions offered by Grayling are pitiful in comparison to what we stand to gain by remaining united.  Simply delaying the introduction of certain cuts to barristers' fees is insufficient.  We demand the end to all government cuts to legal aid.  This is achievable.  Mere days ago Grayling described the cuts as being written in stone.  Now they are up for negotiation.  Further action will compel him to compromise further.  We can defeat these cuts.  All we need is solidarity.

Ending this struggle merely because some of our fees are secure plays into the hands of those who would call us fat cats.  This struggle has never merely been about our fees.  It is about access to justice.  This is still under threat from the Grayling cuts.  Our job is to serve the communities for whose rights we fight.  This retreat by the CBA is letting the public down.  Our clients' fights for justice don't stop at the criminal bar: their access to justice will be impeded without solicitors to help them through the gateway to justice, and without civil practitioners to obtain remedies for injustices done, and to challenge unlawful government decisions.  To truly win, we must stand firm, in solidarity with comrades throughout the legal profession and beyond. 

The Haldane Society continues to support the action to be taken on 31 March and 1 April by the solicitors profession and probation workers.  We also continue to support any and all action against the cuts, including further withdrawal of labour by barristers.

The fight continues.  If the CBA will not lead it, then someone else will.

The Haldane Society Salutes Two Giants of the Labour Movement

BOB CROW: trade unionist, socialist, comrade.

13 June 1961 – 11 March 2014

The Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers is shocked and deeply saddened by the death of Bob Crow, the General Secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), 2002 – 2014.

The outpouring of grief, sadness and solidarity in response to his death confirms the major impact he had as a trade union leader - one of the best known - for his steadfast approach to standing up for his members and advancing the ideas of socialism. Bob Crow had enormous respect and support, amongst both RMT members and trade union members in general, for his uncompromising position of fighting in the interests of rail workers, for calling for renationalisation of the railways, and for the pride with which he called himself a socialist.

With Bob Crow in the leadership of the RMT, membership had grown from 50,000 to just over 80,000. Ken Livingstone is correct when he says that the only working-class people who still have well-paid jobs in London are his members.  Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the TSSA union, said: “Bob Crow was admired by his members and feared by his employers which is exactly how he liked it.”

If there were more trade union militants like Bob, the battle to stop the cuts and kick out the Coalition Government would be at a much more advanced stage.

Our thoughts are with his family, friends, comrades and RMT members.


Tony Benn: speaking truth to power

3 April 1925 – 14 March 2014

We mourn the passing  of Tony Benn. He was a friend to the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers. He spoke at our AGM in 2006 and we sent him copies of Socialist Lawyer.

Much has been written about how Benn's politics shifted. As a Labour Cabinet Minister (1964 – 1970 and 1974 – 1979), his diaries reveal his observationS that the civil service can frustrate the policies and decisions of democratically elected governments, that industrialists and bankers can get their way using the crudest forms of economic pressures, and that the media ensures that events of the day are always presented from the point of view of those who enjoy economic privilege.  Benn believed in absolute, transparent, democracy, exemplified by his well-known five questions to those in power which culminate in “how can we get rid of you?”.

Along with his democratic values was a commitment to real equality, which is why so many people have fond memories of him. He treated everyone as an equal, would respond to any stranger who stopped to talk to him, and was an indefatigable correspondent. Obviously his belief in equality made him a socialist through and through. He also understood and championed campaigns for equal rights which are obvious today, but in the 1970s and 1980s were considered crazy: women's rights, anti-racist campaigns and lesbian and gay rights. That same belief in equality and respect for others informed his work for peace, and his commitment to abolishing nuclear weapons.  He knew all about the horrors of war, having served in the Second World War (and lost his brother in it), and that experience permeated many of his speeches.

Benn believed in solidarity and workers' rights. As MP for Chesterfield during the miners' strike, he regularly attended picket lines and threw himself into speaking and raising money for the miners around the country. Until recently, it was rare to find any trade union picket-line that Benn had not personally visited, with a flask of tea.

Benn had an ability to explain ideas clearly, accessibly and without patronising his audience. That wasn't only because he was a good orator; it was also because he believed in what he was saying. He wasn't parroting a line written by a spin-doctor, or appearing on platforms out of vanity. He knew what he wanted to say, and he said it.

Benn was the leader of a real mass movement in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The early Thatcher government was intent on breaking the labour movement, and the Labour Party leadership was only too happy to accommodate that view. Benn stood for thousands of trade union activists, of Labour Party members committed to democracy and socialism and for1980s' municipal socialism. He was hated by the ruling class because that movement was a genuine challenge to what we now know as neo-liberalism. There are many “what ifs”: what if Benn's bid for the Deputy Leadership of the Labour Party had been successful, what if the Labour Party had never allowed itself to be dictated by the media's right-wing agenda, what if the Labour Party had not split, what if the Falklands war had never happened, what if the miners had not been defeated. If Bennism had not been defeated, within the Labour Party and the labour movement, we might be living in a better, more equal society. 

Launch of Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance: 27 February 2014

*Meeting Now Fully Subscribed*

Entry can only be guaranteed to those who have pre-booked.

We invite you to the launch meeting of the Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance (COPS).

Thursday 27 February 2014, 6.30pm


  • Imran Khan, solicitor to Doreen Lawrence
  • Lois Austin, Youth Against Racism in Europe and Socialist Party
  • Harriet Wistrich, solicitor to eight women bringing legal action against the Metropolitan Police Service
  • Dave Smith, Blacklist Support Group
  • Robbie Gillett, Drax protester
  • Helen Steel, one of the women who is suing police over undercover relationships

Unfortunately, Baroness Lawrence is now unable to attend.

Diskus Conference Centre, Unite House, 128 Theobald's Road,  Holborn, London, WC1X 8TN

Free admission. Places are limited, so please book by email to

Download the leaflet.

Further information:

[The image in this article is the logo of the Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance.  It is the word "COPS" in capital letters, with a palm print in the centre of the "O".]

Open Letter on Police Surveillance

We the undersigned are a mixture of individuals, organisations and lawyers affected by undercover police operations or representing people who believe that they have been the targets of undercover policing

In June this year the public reacted with shock and outrage to revelations that undercover police surveillance was used against members of Stephen Lawrence's family, to find “dirt” that could discredit them.  

This is yet another revelation about the nature and extent of secret policing in Britain, showing decades long spying on and interference with political movements and campaigns.  In addition to efforts to spy upon or smear people such as the Lawrence family who have lost loved ones, particular disgust has been expressed at the gross intrusion of undercover officers forming intimate sexual relationships with some of those upon whom they were spying; at the use of the identities of dead children to obtain cover; and at police links with the blacklisting of trade union members.  It has also become apparent that many criminal convictions have been rendered unsafe as a result of misconduct by the police and prosecutors.

We have no faith in Operation Herne nor any of the up to 16 often secret, internal police or prosecutor reviews. They are not sufficiently transparent, robust or independent to satisfy public concern and they do not come close to addressing all of the issues raised.

The public is entitled to know what has been going on in their name and paid for by their taxes.  We therefore call for an independent public inquiry into all the revelations that undercover policing has been used against political protest and campaigns. This inquiry must have full powers to compel police officers to give evidence.  Such political policing has no place in a democratic society and a mechanism must be found to ensure that such unjustified conduct does not continue into the future. 


Tamsin Allen, Mike Schwarz, Bindmans Solicitors

Lois Austin

Raju Bhatt, Bhatt Murphy Solicitors

Blacklist Support Group

Ruth Bundey, Harrison Bundey Solicitors

Jules Carey, Marian Ellingworth, Tuckers Solicitors

Louise Christian, Christian Khan Solicitors

Deborah Coles and Helen Shaw, Co-Directors INQUEST

Liz Davies, Chair, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers

Claire Dissington, Anti Nazi League

Estelle du Boulay, Director, Newham Monitoring Project

Suresh Grover, The Monitoring Group

Imran Khan, Imran Khan & Partners Solicitors

Anna Mazzola, Consultant Solicitor, Bindmans Solicitors

Frank Smith, blacklisted trade unionist

The Socialist Party

Michelle Stanistreet, General Secretary, National Union of Journalists

Harriet Wistrich, Birnberg Peirce Solicitors, Belinda Harvey, Helen Steel & 6 others in legal action against undercover relationships

Youth Against Racism in Europe 

Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers Condemns Arrests of Legal Observers

Press Release

For immediate release

Outrage at arrests of Legal Observers

Five independent Legal Observers were arrested at the UAF and UEE organised demonstration against the EDL in Tower Hamlets on Saturday 7th September 2013.  The five were part of a team of 14 Legal Observers organised jointly by the Legal Defence and Monitoring Group (LDMG) and The Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers.

The arrests occurred when about 150 demonstrators who had been kettled in Mansell Street and were entirely peaceful were arrested one by one for alleged breaches of Section 12 of the Public Order Act 1986.  The five Legal Observers were contained in the kettle and remained to the end to ensure that the protesters were aware of their legal rights on arrest.  The coordinators of the Legal Observers were shocked to witness their colleagues’ arrest.

Independent Legal Observers are a familiar sight on demonstrations and protests.  The Legal Observers were clearly identified by bright orange tabards with the title “Legal Observer” writ large across their backs.  The role of independent Legal Observers is to monitor police behaviour and to distribute “bust cards” which contain information about protesters' rights on arrest and details of solicitors they can contact if arrested.

Tony Martin, one of the coordinators of the Legal Observing team said:

“The arrest of five Legal Observers is outrageous.  Although we have had individual Legal Observers arrested before, this is a very rare occurrence.  What is different on this occasion is that the decision was taken at a very senior level of the Metropolitan Police.  This is a clear attempt to interfere with freedom of assembly guaranteed by Article 11 of the ECHR and will send shock waves amongst supporters of freedom and justice.”

Stephen Knight, from the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, said:

“Legal observers work independently of the demonstrations they monitor and are there solely to inform people of their legal rights and to monitor the way in which assemblies are policed. Legal observers are not part of the demonstration and we condemn attempts to criminalise them. Their presence and use at protests has become the norm and the police are fully aware of the role they play.”

The arrested Legal Observers have been released on police bail and are consulting solicitors about their next steps.

Read More

Statement on Police Surveillance Revelations

The Haldane Society is shocked at the revelations concerning undercover policing and surveillance into legitimate campaigning and protest groups. We support calls for a public inquiry into the level of surveillance, the groups infiltrated and the extent to which surveillance was for illegitimate aims (such trying to smear campaigns or victims of crime and/or surveillance on legal and legitimate protests)

Generations of campaigners, workers and young people have gone through the experience of campaigning in their trade unions, anti-racist campaigns and environmental organisations. They have  peacefully demonstrated, protested and taken strike action in defence of their rights and have been shocked to face the full force of the state and police brutality, followed by lies being told about them being ‘violent protesters’. This was the experience, under Tory governments of the miners during the year long strike of the mid-80s, of the millions who refused to pay the poll tax in the early 90s, of the anti-capitalist protesters under a Labour administration in early 2000, recently student demonstrators and many more national and local campaigns.

As lawyers we have a particular concern at the revelations that a person’s right to confidential discussions with his or her lawyer was infringed by the taping of meetings between Duwayne Brooks and his solicitor and we call for the inquiry to investigate the extent of surveillance breaching confidential legal discussions.

We share the outrage expressed by a number of groups and individuals at the revelations that undercover police officers had sexual relations with women, whilst maintaining the secrecy of their true identity. We believe that this practice is sexual exploitation and support the women and family members who are bringing claims against the police. Sexual relations in the context of deceit as to a person's true identity can never be justified.

Information has so far emerged of infiltration into anti-racist, left, environmental, and anti-arms trade campaigns, we call for the inquiry to investigate infiltration into any other legal, peaceful organisation, including the trade union movement and to investigate what links, if any, state agencies may have or have had with agencies co-operating to blacklist workers.

We can see no legitimate reason for infiltration into any group engaged in legal, non-violent, peaceful protest.

The Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers calls for:

  • a full public inquiry into the role of the Special Demonstration Squad and the wider issue of police infiltration of the justice campaigns, socialist, anti racist, environmental and other progressive organisations.
  • the abolition of the Special Branch, including the National Public Order Intelligence Unit and the destruction of political files and computer records not connected with criminal investigations.

Statement of Support – Keep the NHS Public

The Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers is adding its voice to the Keep the NHS Public campaign. The NHS was created as a comprehensive, universal and free service 60 years ago. It is now in great danger. The current government has passed laws which will force open our NHS to competition from private companies seeking to make profit for their shareholders – which is completely at odds with a health service which acts in the best interests of patients.

The NHS is a defining institution of this country. We need to fight for it now and make this government back down. We call on organisations, healthcare workers, patients and the public to campaign to protect the NHS from further privatisation and fragmentation, and to keep our NHS public for the benefit of all.

We also urge people to join the demonstration on Saturday 18 May in London to Save London’s NHS. Details are here:

Support Keep the NHS Public: