Categorized | Criminal Justice, Legal Aid

Lawyers suspend legal aid action

Lawyers suspend legal aid action

On Friday 21 August Bill Waddington of the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association (CLSA) and Jon Black of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association (LCCSA) issued a joint statement.

It stated: “For 52 days Solicitors and Barristers across the country have stood firm against the second cut. In recent weeks, the leaders of the Practitioner Groups have had the opportunity to engage with the MoJ and by so doing, have been able to provide ideas for long term savings as a direct alternative to a cut in rates. Although no offer to settle the issue has yet been made, as a gesture of goodwill and recognising the importance of this engagement we firmly believe that the time is right to suspend the action with immediate effect. By doing so we hope the relationship which has now been established will continue into the future .There are many challenges ahead and the engagement to date is a sign that those challenges can be debated constructively in a receptive atmosphere.

“We recognise that this has been a very difficult time for those participating in the action and we are grateful to those who have stood firm in support of their principles.

“We also thank the CBA for their involvement in this action and in doing so recognise the immense sacrifice made by many on both sides of the profession.

“We have surveyed our members over the course of 72 hours and the mandate is to suspend action. We look forward to a continuing open dialogue with the government and will keep our members appraised.”

Franklin Sinclair, senior partner at Tuckers, a key member of the Big Firms Group (BFG), said on Twitter that the group had decided to suspend action “as a result of continuing dialogue with the MoJ and in order to facilitate progress to a successful outcome.” The Criminal Bar Association (CBA) backed the move.

CLSA vice-chair Robin Murray believed the group had given justice secretary Michael Gove “the chance to make good his assurances that he would treat our proposals for savings seriously and we believe he and the Ministry of Justice are doing so.”

The Ministry of Justice said it “welcomed the practitioner groups” decision and “look forward to continuing to work constructively with the professions.”

Not surprisingly the announcement prompted mixed reactions. Practitioner groups were forced to defend their decision after shocked solicitors expressed their outrage on public forums.

Stephen Nelson tweeted: “to my friends at the bar I apologise. To my professional organisations I resign.”
Other comments included “Organising the profession for industrial action of any kind was always going to be like herding cats”; “It didn’t take Gove long to break those big girls!”; “Bunch of cowards!”; “Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Historic unification of the two branches of the profession caused untold issues for the Government.”; “Quelle surprise! They folded in under two months. Tell me why I’m not surprised.”

The LCCSA and CLSA are consulting members on whether they would be willing to withdraw bids for the government’s new legal aid contracts to provide 24-hour cover at police stations. The deadline for responses is Friday.

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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