New Century – New Challenges and Old Themes

In the 21st century, we face new challenges. Bush and Blair’s 'war on terror' resulted in internment, use of evidence obtained by torture, and control orders akin to house arrest. Members of the Society have been professionally engaged in defending the human rights of those caught up in these abuses. The Society works closely with Liberty and the Campaign against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC) in support of civil liberties and fundamental rights. Our members were involved in challenging the legality of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. We are committed to achieving justice and human rights for the Palestinians and several of our members have worked in Palestine for human rights centres.

Our 'Close it Down – Bring them Home' campaign called for the closing of Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp and, joins with Amnesty International and Reprieve, in calling for an end to the abuse of 'extraordinary rendition' and the return to the UK of all prisoners who have ever had rights of residence here.

The old themes will not go away. Every year the government proposes new assaults on the jury system, the rights of defendants in criminal trials and on the rights of refugees. Despite the historic achievements of the Law Centre Movement, today access to justice is shrinking, not expanding and we must campaign to defend legal aid. Young lawyers now face the most daunting challenge in decades in their commitment to provide access to justice for all and the Haldane is active in its support for Young Legal Aid Lawyers.

E P Thompson, whose interest in the eighteenth-century legal system is set out in 'Albion’s Fatal Tree', addressed the Society in 1976. He sent out a call to lawyers which is as relevant now as it was 30 years ago:

"The struggle to change class-bound laws and corrupt or class-bound procedures, and to preserve and extend the real gains of the practical struggles of the past – and indeed to defend not only the trade union and labour movement but also the individual from the new pretensions and resources of state power – remains on the daily agenda. And in this struggle we very much need the skills of radical and Marxist lawyers".