Categorized | Legal Aid

Barristers join legal aid boycott

Barristers join legal aid boycott

The nationwide boycott over the government’s legal aid cuts gathered momentum as criminal barristers officially joined solicitors in their protest. A ballot by the Criminal Barristers Association (CBA) saw a narrow majority of 55% in favour of the action.

The CBA met last Monday evening and reaffirmed its support for the protest. A spokesperson said: “The members of the CBA voted in July to take action against the latest cut in legal aid fees by adopting no returns and not taking instructions.”

The CBA “will continue to work closely with solicitors and listen to our membership who are making considerable personal sacrifices in order to protect the public interest. We seek to maintain a high quality criminal justice system in which excellent public service is delivered by committed solicitors and a vibrant independent bar.”

Thousands of solicitors have been boycotting new legal aid work since 1 July, when a second 8.75% fee cut was introduced. They have now switched their focus to crown courts, where they will not accept work on new cases at the lower rates.

Jon Black, president of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association, said: “We are going to target the crown courts. We are going back to work in the magistrates courts. It was felt there [is] a lot of pressure on firms and they couldn’t take it any longer.”

A new protocol for action, issued by the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association (CLSA), London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association (LCCSA) and Big Firms Group (BFG) last Friday, enables solicitors to carry out more police station and magistrates’ court work, in effect restricting the action to Crown court work.

The protocol, which came into force last Friday, has prompted the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to issue a warning notice.

The regulator said it was “concerned that solicitors and firms may not act in the best interests of each individual client, as required by the SRA Principles, should the new protocol issued….be followed without fully considering the circumstances of each individual client.”

The CBA said it would monitor the impact of the action nationally and “review matters on a weekly basis.”

The MoJ said that the action is not causing widespread disruption. A 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.”

The LCCSA, CLSA and BFG met justice secretary Michael Gove last Thursday. LCCSA president Jonathan Black and CLSA vice-chair Robin Murray said Gove “will continue to engage and consider any ideas as to budgetary savings, detailed proposals for viable alternatives to [two-tier contracts] and simultaneously [the MoJ will] invite suggestions for improving the two-tier details.” Fee cuts were “the subject of ongoing discussions.”

This post was written by:

- who has written 462 posts on Upper Case – The Anya Legal Journal.

Mike Gribbin is a retired Civil Servant with wide experience, including the drafting and implementation of Parliamentary legislation and regulations. He is the editor of “Criminal Offences Handbook”, a uniquely comprehensive guide to more than one thousand ways to fall foul of UK criminal law. He is Editor of the Upper Case Legal Journal and has been writing blog posts for the past eight years.

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