LEGAL MATTERS: Parties Urged to Defend Human Rights and the Rule of Law

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Legal bodies and consumers' groups have called on all political parties to defend human rights and the rule of law.

A coalition of eight organisations have drawn up a 'Manifesto for Justice' which also insists everyone should be able to win access to justice through systems such as legal aid.

Director of the Legal Action Group, Alison Hannah, said: 'Over the last few years we have seen too much rushed legislation leading to bad laws, even where fundamental principles of the constitution and justice are affected.

'We want to see a government that thinks through the implications of change before implementing it and values dignity, respect and fairness for all under the law.'

The document warns would-be MPs: 'The annual round of criminal justice legislation should be put on a diet.'

It backs trial for terrorists using phonetap evidence and other intercepted communications if necessary, warns that ID cards should not be pursued 'in their present form' and insists jury trial should remain the 'centre-piece for the trying of all serious crime'.

It adds: 'Access to legal advice and representation is itself a basic human right.'

Chief executive of Citizens Advice, David Harker, estimated that at least 7.25 million adults a year have problems which they fail to receive legal advice. …