Thursday, 2 July 2015
Cuts to Legal Aid
There has been too little in the news about this,
A few weeks ago the Ministry of Justice announced the implementation of significant cuts to Legal Aid rates in criminal cases that will come into effect from today. The cuts impose an 8.75% reduction in solicitors' fees. As a result solicitors up and down the country (including those who practice at the Magistrates' Courts in Haringey) have decided to undertake no work on new legal aid cases from today. Criminal barristers are balloting among themselves between now and the 14 July to decide whether to join solicitors in a similar action.
This cannot be called a 'strike' because regardless of the outcome of the ballot each barrister must make his or her own decision on whether to refuse to do new legal aid work. However, if enough lawyers decide to join this action then the effect will be to bring the criminal justice system to a halt. No lawyer wants to do this but many of us feel that we are left with no choice. If the cuts come into effect it will not be possible for lawyers to properly represent their clients and we simply will not have a fair and effective criminal justice system.
We have endured years of reductions in fees whilst repeatedly pointing out to the Ministry of Justice how it could make significant savings to its budget, without cutting legal services to the most vulnerable. Even without these cuts we will be struggling with massive, ill-thought out changes to legal aid contracts.
We have been here before - last year in fact when Chris Grayling backed down from introducing similar cuts in the face of action by the legal profession. Now the Government, no doubt emboldened by the election victory, is back for another go. It is vital that they do not succeed.
There is some information about this on the London Criminal Courts Solicitors' website (www.lccsa.org.uk) When I get the chance, I will write something more substantial about the nature of the cuts, the issues at stake and how people can support the action. (although I already owe Mike a blog piece on the Human Rights Act). Hopefully, when presented with a true picture of what is going on Green Party members will support us.
Posted by DON'T dis US at 09:33