The Government and the legal aid agency are leaving the most vulnerable people in society unrepresented and at risk, according to the solicitor representing homeless protesters in Manchester city centre.
Manchester City Council yesterday won an injunction not only against the homeless protesters in the camps in St Ann’s Square and Castlefield but against anyone setting up any temporary form of accommodation in Manchester City Centre.
Anyone who pitches a tent in the city centre could now be charged with contempt of court under the terms of the injunction.
Ben Taylor of WTB Solicitors, who has been representing some of the protesters of the camp since April on a pro bono basis, said: “The injunction has been served against my clients and persons unknown which means it applies to every single person in the whole world.
“My advice to all the homeless in Manchester and surrounding area is not to sleep in any other temporary form of accommodation other than sleeping bags or blankets, cardboard boxes, park benches, doorways, bus shelters or any accommodation offered by charities or they would face up to two years imprisonment.”
The Legal Aid Agency refused public funding to the protesters yesterday on the grounds that this situation was not within scope since the restrictions implemented on 1st April 2013 pursuant to Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.
Both Mr Taylor and his clients would like to seek an appeal of the injunction but the denial of public funding makes it almost impossible.
“Prior to 1st April 2013 legal aid would have been available and despite our efforts to try to get it granted it has continued to be refused leaving this injunction in force and unappealed,” Mr Taylor added.
“The Government’s decision to restrict legal aid means that the most vulnerable people in society are deprived the opportunity to challenge the Court’s decision. The Legal Aid Agency and the Ministry of Justice should be ashamed of themselves.”