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From: The Socialist issue 793, 8 January 2014: Axe austerity in 2014

Search site for keywords: Cuts - Hackney - Tenants - Legal aid - Brian Debus - Britain - Aid

Class injustice at Dickensian court

Between Christmas and New Year, thousands of tenants in rent arrears were dragged into courts across the country facing possession orders. Like something out of a Dickensian novel, I witnessed first hand one such case.

It was due to be heard at 10.30am but was not called until 90 minutes later. We were ushered into a room more like a headmaster's study than a court.

Before we sat down the 'Beak' mumbled something unintelligible. There were no introductions, no explanation of process, just this Judge dispensing summary injustice!

A statement of defence was left unread and unpresented, just dismissed as unsigned. The duty solicitor said barely two words to explain the reasons for the arrears and the upcoming Benefit Tribunal.

In just two minutes a suspended possession order was granted with the weekly rent plus 10 towards the arrears to be paid from the following Monday.

When the tenant said they didn't have the money and would have to use a credit card, the judge snorted: "I don't care where you get the money."

The monthly rent and arrears payment was a few pounds short of the person's income. This showed the brutal class realities of life in benefit-slashed Tory Britain operated by one callous and ignorant Judge.

Apparently you have to seek permission to appeal against a magistrate's decision, and within two weeks.

With limited resources and legal aid cuts, very few will be able to take this on. It's class injustice.

Brian Debus, Hackney

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