Lawyers continue strike over cuts in fees

Solicitors and barristers in London and across the UK are continuing to boycott legal aid cases, in protest at the government’s further cuts of 8.75 per cent in fees paid to duty solicitors.

If the 8.75 per cent cut to funding is implemented, it will be the second consecutive year of such reductions and brings the total amount over a 15-month period to 17.5 per cent. 

The chaos could also affect courts. If no lawyer is available and individuals are not prepared to represent themselves, cases may have to adjourned or dismissed.

The independent Bar in London said that barristers would not be undertaking any further work on cases with a Representation Order dated on or after 1 July as well as proposing a “no returns” policy for all existing cases in the Crown Court, which would see criminal barristers refuse to cover work for colleagues in legal aid-funded defence cases.

The practice of “returns” involves colleagues appearing at hearings when the instructed barrister has to appear in court somewhere else at the same time. This is normally a regular occurrence, with diary clashes and overrunning trials being commonplace.

The boycott has spread nationwide, with mass meetings of criminal solicitors and barristers in cities including Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle and Bradford lending their support.

Tony Cross, the leader of the CBA, the professional organisation representing close to 4,000 criminal barristers across England and Wales, had urged members to vote against the disruptive plans.

Cross said, “I simply do not understand how anyone can form the view that we should move to action before negotiations had broken down.”

Cross added that the CBA had established a good working relationship with the Ministry of Justice, because “negotiation and engagement remain essential even when parties disagree. Regardless of what the membership may decide, direct action without dialogue is irrational.”

Direct Access Barrister - myBarrister