Categorized | Criminal Justice

Criminal Bar Association vote for direct action

Criminal Bar Association vote for direct action

The election results will have brought little joy to legal aid and criminal lawyers.

Although none of the parties, other than the Greens, had promised to reverse all the £600m of legal aid cuts inflicted by the coalition government, Labour had pledged to halt the deeply unpopular tendering process for duty solicitors covering police stations and magistrates courts, as well as reviewing a scheduled 8.75% cut in the fees they receive. The party also indicated it would improve access to legal aid for victims of domestic violence and overturn restrictions on judicial review.

Resentment among lawyers paid out of public funds is on the rise again. As the former appeal court judge, Sir Anthony Hooper, pronounced: “it’s revolution time. We have to stop helping them and stop working.” The Ministry of Justice is likely to endure further austerity. Even Labour had pencilled in £70m of MoJ cuts, including scrapping high court judges’ lodgings.

Criminal barristers are threatening mass walkouts aimed at closing down the courts in protest against government cuts to legal aid. In an overwhelming show of support for confrontation with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), the 4,000-strong membership of the Criminal Bar Association has voted to back direct action.

Announcing the result of the survey, Tony Cross, chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, said: “The Criminal Bar Association has conducted a survey of its members in order to gauge better the depth of concern amongst the profession about the Government’s proposals for the Dual Provider Scheme. The response for such a survey was unprecedented and 96% of those who responded have urged the CBA to take action to press the Government to think again.

“The proposed changes have no sensible economic foundation and will lead to irreversible damage to the Criminal Justice System (“CJS”). The proposed scheme will reduce competition, stifle innovation and paralyze the market as it becomes closed to new entrants.”

He said that spending on legal aid has already dropped by 1/3 since 2009/10, meeting government targets several years ahead of schedule. No other sector of Government spending has borne such brutal cuts. There is simply no room or need for more, adding that the overwhelming support of the CBA’s members demonstrates the seriousness of their purpose and commitment to effective access to justice for all citizens.

He concluded: “No barrister wishes to withhold his / her labour. It is a measure of the extreme nature of our concern that so many of our members are contemplating such action.”

Jonathan Black, president of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association, said: “We are delighted that the CBA has balloted its members with overwhelming support for a no returns campaign.”

Bill Waddington, chair of the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association, also welcomed the result. He said: “The Criminal Bar Association’s overwhelming vote in favour of direct action in response to the government’s unworkable two-tier contract is hugely welcome and underlies the strength of feeling against their legal aid reforms among the profession.”

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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