Barristers To Strike Over Cuts To Legal Aid

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Barristers To Strike Over Cuts To Legal Aid

Post  candyfloss on Mon 27 Jul 2015, 10:50 am

Barristers To Strike Over Cuts To Legal Aid

Barristers are set to strike in solidarity with criminal defence solicitors, who face cuts of 8.75% to their fees.





By Afua Hirsch, Social Affairs Editor

There are fears of disruption throughout the criminal justice system as barristers begin striking today in protest over cuts to legal aid.


Criminal barristers will begin refusing to take on Crown Court cases, in solidarity with criminal defence solicitors, who now face cuts of 8.75% to their fees.

Solicitors have already been striking since 1 July when the cuts came in - initially refusing all new work in both Magistrates and Crown Courts, and have staged a series of protests outside courts nationwide.

Many claim the cuts, which make it harder for small, high street law firms to survive, will make it more difficult to access justice, creating a two-tier system that favours the better off.

Jonathan Black, president of the London Criminal Court Solicitors Association, said: "Hundreds of solicitors' firms around the country will close down, developing instead into mass justice warehouses, legal aid warehouses, where cases will be packed high and sold cheap.

High street firms that ordinary people know how to access will be decimated."

The legal aid system - which sees lawyers paid from public funds to provide representation for people facing legal proceedings - has suffered repeated cuts under the past two governments.

In a series of austerity measures that began under the last Labour government, fees for both barristers and solicitors have been reduced and some areas of law removed from eligibility for legal aid altogether.

Gemma Blythe, from Young Legal Aid Lawyers, warned: "Those who cannot afford to pay for a solicitor, and those who are denied legal aid, are suffering at the hands of the Government."

Although criminal defence barristers are not directly affected by the latest round of cuts, a majority voted to strike in what was hailed by many as an unprecedented show of solidarity between the two main branches of the legal profession.

According to Joanne Cecil, a barrister at Garden Court Chambers, criminal justice is "on its knees and broken" as a result of the austerity measures.

"This is really not about our fees, it’s about the wider impact on society,” she said.

"The impact of these cuts to legal aid is not just to defendants, but also victims of crime and witnesses, who have to deal with what is a creaking justice system."

The Government said the cuts were "challenging" but necessary, and that they would be reviewed next year.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: "The changes we are making to criminal legal aid are designed to deliver value for money to taxpayers and do not impact on the availability of high quality legal advice to those who need it most.

"Although we recognise that the transition will be challenging for lawyers, these changes will put the profession on a sustainable footing for the long term. We have already pledged that an independent review looking at the impact of the new arrangements will begin in July 2016."

http://news.sky.com/story/1525700/barristers-to-strike-over-cuts-to-legal-aid

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