Books

FMOJ coverThe First Miscarriage of Justice: the amazing and unreported case of Tony Stock

Waterside Press (257 pages, October 2014)

Tony Stock spent 43 years fighting to clear his name. His case went to the Court of Appeal on four separate occasions and to the European Court of Human Rights. He died in 2012. His case has been called ‘one of the most outrageous miscarriages of justice of modern times’.

‘Jon Robins, who many readers will know of as the editor of the excellent www.justicegap.com, has written a first class book, The First Miscarriage of Justice, which pulls off three tricks. First he tells a riveting and rather sad story of an ordinary man whose life was shattered by an outrageous miscarriage of justice. Secondly, he takes us back in time to a Life on Marsworld of Cortinas, Mini Coopers, bent coppers and biased judges. Thirdly, he reminds us that whilst the Cortinas may have vanished the modern judiciary is by no means as clever or as fair as it sometimes likes to imagine itself.  Four times Tony Stock’s case has been to the Court of Appeal. Four times, disgracefully, it has been rejected.
This fascinating, atmospheric and important book highlights a shameful truth, that even now, 25 years after the release of the Guildford Four, the English legal system has great difficulty admitting that it is capable of getting things wrong. For a system which is supposedly designed above all else to protect the innocent from wrongful convictions, that is a pretty serious fault.’
Matthew Scott (here)

‘Some books on alleged miscarriages of justice can be a little worthy and self-righteous. This work, however, is an excellent read. It is a gripping crime story, an accurate portrayal of northern working-class life in the 1970s and an interesting review of how the law on police procedure has developed.’
David Pickup, Law Society Gazette

‘The story of Tony Stock should be mandatory reading for everyone, not merely those involved with the law, whether they be students, practising lawyers, teachers, and judges. It concerns the quality of our criminal justice system and its serious reluctance and unwillingness to root out injustice.’
Michael Mansfield QC

‘Sadly Tony is no longer with us, but his epic fight for justice continues. We hope that through the hard work and the commitment of his long-standing solicitor Glyn Maddocks and his many supporters his case will once again be before the Appeal judges before too long. The contribution of the Criminal Cases Review Commission – who referred the case back to the Court of Appeal for an unprecedented second time in 2008 – must be recognised. But as this new book makes clear this case must go back again. Justice must be done. What does it say about our criminal justice system, if such an outrageous injustice is left to stand uncorrected?’
Barry Sheerman MP


JG coverThe Justice Gap: whatever happened to legal aid?

Legal Action Group (175 pages, 20o9)

‘People need to have ways to uphold their rights and defend their interests… it is not enough for people to have rights, they must be confident they can enforce those rights if need be.’
Lord Irvine, Modernising Justice, 1998

‘Reports of legal aid’s death, to paraphrase Mark Twain, have been much exaggerated. That said, it is the Legal Action Group’s contention that the precarious state of health of the civil scheme means its future is far from certain. Legal aid policy has lost the plot.’
The Justice Gap, 2009

Whatever happened to legal aid? Legal aid was conceived as part of the welfare state in 1949 when free access to justice was viewed as no less a fundamental right than free education or healthcare. The legal aid scheme then covered eight out of ten people.

New Labour came into power in 1997 promising a new Community Legal Service but within three years eligibility levels were down to half of the population. Sixty years after the creation of the welfare state and the legal aid system is collapsing. The government spends £2 billion of taxpayers’ money a year on publicly-funded legal advice – barely enough to keep the NHS going for two weeks – but ministers insist it is ‘non-sustainable’. In 2009, legal aid has been reduced to a poverty benefit, less than one in three of us are entitled to legal aid.

This is the justice gap: the legal aid vacuum occupied by an increasing section of society that are neither sufficiently impoverished to qualify for legal aid nor can they afford a lawyer.

Jon Robins and co-author Steve Hynes of the Legal Action Group analyse the differing pressures on the legal aid budget and the negative impact of a decade of continuous cost-cutting reforms that have led to the decline of legal aid. They also make a case for reforming legal aid and increasing access to justice.

The Legal Action Group was founded in 1972 with its aim of promoting equal access to justice for all.

‘This book is an impressive attempt at preserving the hope that everyone might have access to justice in this country.’
Shami Chakrabarti, Liberty

‘This book is an important contribution to an essential debate we need to have about how to best create a legal aid system fit for the 21st century.’
Baroness Helena Kennedy QC

‘An excellent book.. .’
Lord Neuberger, Master of the Rolls (Law Society and Bar Council Opening of the legal year seminar)


PP coverPeople Power

Daily Telegraph (242 pages, 2008)

‘This book is aimed at local grass roots campaigning groups. Whether you are trying to stop a much loved playground being bulldozed and turned into a supermarket, fighting to improve the quality of school meals or trying to keep your local beach clean – this is the book for you.’

‘Have people really given up and retreated into apathy? Of course, they haven’t and People Power provides evidence that many are convinced that they can bring about change in their own communities and beyond. This book documents the fact that campaigning groups can and do make a difference.’

People Power is a guide for would-be campaigners who want to bring about real changes in their own communities. Local campaigns are a growing social phenomenon, and some high-profile success stories have proved that they can make a difference – but victories depend entirely on the tactics used.

Recent high-profile local campaigns that People Power documents include: the battle to stop a local council from bulldozing a much loved playground for yet another Tesco; protests to stop a waste transfer facility opening next to a school; healthy school meals campaigns; and successful attempts to make a town plastic bag-free.

People Power is based on interviews with 30 campaigning groups – including veterans and first-timers – over a six month period in 2007/08. They include Surfers Against Sewage to Stop, Tescopoly, Bristol Airport Expansion, Friends of the Earth and the Modbury Traders (the first plastic bag free town).

People Power aims to give local campaign groups the information and the techniques they need to make a real difference. ‘Effective campaigning isn’t rocket science but it does need strategic thought and planning. A sense of burning injustice and indignation is only going to get you so far,’ argues Jon Robins. ‘The purpose behind our book is to explain the crucial elements of a successful campaign.’

The book covers everything campaigners need to know to run a successful local campaign. It contains information on

  • running an action
  • raising money
  • the winning a good press coverage
  • campaigning online
  • lobbying politicians
  • using the law
  • bringing about change

‘Campaigning is about making a difference and delivering real change in your own community,’ comments co-author Paul Stookes, a specialist environmental law activist. ‘Increasingly, communities are recognising that they do have the power to fight back, not only to ward off unwelcome developments, but to make a positive contribution. It’s a social phenomenon.’

‘This is a timely and useful book. The local campaigners can benefit from precisely the sort of information and advice that is in this book when they are setting themselves up and when they are designing and implementing their campaigns.’
Friends of the Earth

‘People Power will be an  Invaluable tool for all those seeking to get a campaign going it is full of information presented in an easy to read way.’
Environmental Law Foundation


PG coverA Parent’s Guide to the Law

LawPack 2010 (211 pages)

We live in a complex world where our lives and the lives of our children are increasingly prescribed by the law, rules and regulations, which all have a direct impact upon us as parents. This is a book that aims to help readers understand better the rights and responsibilities they have as parents, from expecting their first child to becoming grandparents. It is written by the Jon Robins, who specialises in writing about legal and consumer issues for the national press, and draws on the advice of leading experts and organisations in a range of areas.

A Parent’s Guide to the Law is in a Q&A format, full of practical help, free of jargon and legalease and with a directory of contacts at the end of each chapter. The book features over 200 answers to parents’ most frequently asked legal questions, including:’

  • Do you have to right to insist upon a home birth?
  • How much time can you take off work to have your baby?
  • How can you appeal a decision to refuse your child their first choice school?
  • At what age is it ‘OK’ to leave your child ‘home alone’?
  • Is downloading music always illegal?
  • Can your child open a bank account?
  • What powers do the police to give your child ‘a slap on the wrist’?
  • Do mums always get custody?
  • How does the CSA work?
  • What rights do grandparents have to see their grandchildren, if there has been a family dispute?

AL coverAffordable Law: how to get legal advice without breaking the bank

LawPack (192 pages, 2003)

This book is a guide to help you find the best possible legal advice at the best possible price – if indeed you have to pay at all.

Over the past few years there has been an alarming growth in the legal poverty gap. Increasing numbers of people have found themselves shut out of the legal aid system unable or unwilling to pay for legal advice. The introduction of complicated ‘no win, no fee’ agreements and numerous high-profile claims companies scares where thousands of accident victims had been left penniless have made the whole issue of access to justice alienating for consumers.

This book navigate the legal advice minefield — describing how the legal process works, the various ways to access legal help, who to see and how to get the best value for money.

Chapters include:

  • The right person for the job: a guide to lawyers and nonlawyers (chapter 1)
  • keeping costs under control Keeping costs down: how to control legal expense (chapter 2)
  • legal aid: are you eligible?  (Chapter 3)
  • no win, no fee: conditional fees explained (chapter 4)
  • other sources of legal help: legal expenses insurance and trade Unions (chapter 5)
  • life without lawyers: keeping out of the courts and a DIY law (chapter 6)
  • what happens if it all goes wrong (chapter 7)