CRIMINAL barristers will strike in a show of solidarity with solicitors against the government’s latest 8.75 per cent cut to legal aid, it was announced yesterday.
Members of the Criminal Bar Association (CBA), representing 4,000 barristers, voted in favour of industrial action on a 45 per cent turnout.
Fifty-five per cent (982 votes to 795) agreed to no new work and no “returns,” — a goodwill gesture involving lawyers travelling all over Britain at short notice to cover colleagues’ hearings where there are schedule clashes.
Barristers aren’t paid for this extra duty, which the CBA says is “fundamental to the efficient running of the crown courts.”
Solicitors are complaining that funding losses have cut the number of prisoner transport vans and interpreters dispatched to courts — meaning they can wait unpaid for hours to see clients and begin cases.
And the chaos would be worsened by Justice Secretary Michael Gove’s insistence that lawyers do more pro-bono work to keep the cogs turning, lawyers say.
Solicitors’ fees were slashed on July 1 after a cut of the same amount just last year — an overall reducation of nearly 17 per cent within the span of 15 months.
Support from the barristers was welcomed by the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association (CLSA) and London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association (LCCSA).
In a joint statement, LCCSA and CLSA chairmen Jon Black and Bill Waddington said: “The solicitors who have participated in the action over the past fortnight have shown that they have been prepared to make huge sacrifices in order to demonstrate the cuts are inequitable, unsustainable and wrong.
“We now welcome the criminal bar which has formally voted to take direct action against the cuts which they recognise have a direct effect on their ability to provide a quality service.”
The Law Society criticised ministers last month for approving plans to reduce the number of contracts for 24-hour legal aid solicitors from 1,600 to 527.
Now, detained people at police stations could struggle to get legal advice and courts are at high risk of buckling.Crimin