10:38, July 26 68 0 theguardian.com

2017-07-26 10:38:03
From court fees to a books ban: Chris Grayling's short-lived justice policies

The supreme court’s ruling that employment tribunal fees unlawfully hindered access to justice is the latest instance of measures introduced by the former justice secretary Chris Grayling being quashed or ditched.

Criminal court fees

The charges introduced by Grayling required defendants who pleaded guilty at a magistrates court to pay £150 and those convicted at crown court to hand over £1,200. The then chairman of the Bar Council warned that innocent people were being incentivised to plead guilty. More than 100 magistrates resigned over the charges, including one who paid the charge for a destitute asylum seeker out of his own pocket. Michael Gove scrapped the charges after he replaced Grayling as justice secretary, saying the “intent has fallen short”.

Selling prison training to Saudi Arabia

Grayling set up Justice Solutions International, a commercial arm of the Ministry of Justice, to sell expertise in prisons and probation, which soon attracted criticism because of its £5.9m contract to provide a training programme for prisons in Saudi Arabia. Jeremy Corbyn called on the government to end the contract, citing the Saudi government’s record on executions and poor human rights. Gove ditched JSI and cancelled the Saudi contract after a fierce dispute with the then foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, with Gove highlighting the human rights concerns.

Cuts to legal aid for prisoners

The court of appeal ruled in April that cuts to legal aid for prisoners were unlawful because they are inherently unfair. The Howard League for Penal Reform, which brought the case against the government, argued that since the cuts had come into force in December 2013, violence and self-injury in prisons had risen to record levels. The court found that important decisions about prisoners could not be made efficiently or fairly in light of the cuts.

Legal aid restrictions for domestic violence victims

These widely criticised rules meant abused victims in family court hearings had to demonstrate they had been targeted within the past five years to obtain legal aid. Victims also had to provide proof of abuse, such as medical reports, injunctions and social services records. This year the government removed the five-year limit and said they would now accept letters from charities, solicitors and housing officers as proof of abuse, after it was estimated that 40% of female survivors of domestic violence were unable to meet previous legal aid evidence requirements.

Banning books for prisoners

One of the most high-profile controversies of Grayling’s tenure was the decision to prevent prisoners from receiving books from friends or relatives, and limit the number of books each prisoners was able to have in a cell. A high court ruling in December 2015 found that restricting prisoners’ access to books was unlawful, and Gove scrapped the rules when he took office.