|Protest ~ Old Bailey, London|
"This year some public sector workers will receive pay rises. Criminal barristers and solicitors, meanwhile, have been told to expect pay cuts of 17.5% for less serious cases and 30% for very high cost cases (VHCCs)."
See also this article and video in which Mark George QC explains clearly the likely impact on justice of the proposals. Also, this interview (on Youtube) is well worth watching - Sarah Forshaw QC talks to Huw Edwards. Further excellent comments in The Guardian's article: Legal Aid: is this the cut that kills?
In 2013 there were two consultations on legal aid - see the posts of 4th June 2013 and 5th September 2013. The government's response to the second consultation is awaited. There can be little doubt that, if these cuts are implemented, the future for an INDEPENDENT criminal bar will be very grim. Young talented lawyers will not be able to afford to practice in criminal law and that would have devastating longer term consequences for justice both in terms of prosecuting cases and defending those accused.
The Ministry of Justice also stands charged
with issuing misleading statistics relating to barrister's income. The figures are challenged in this statement of 6th January by Nigel Lithman QC (Chairman of the Criminal Bar association). Some blogs have addressed this matter - see Misinformation by Public Bodies (Pupillage and how to get it blog); Life at the thin end of the wedge - The grim reality of the independent junior criminal bar (50 Shades of Affray).
The Law Society Gazette notes that Half day protest attracts hundreds of demonstrators. Here are three quotations from this article:
A) "Chairman of the Criminal Bar Association Nigel Lithman QC told the gathering at Westminster Magistrates’ Court: ‘On this momentous day we stand on the brink of the collapse of the criminal justice system. After 37 years at the criminal bar I don’t say that lightly.’
Branding the MoJ a ‘Leviathan eating away at the legal aid system’, he said access to justice is as important in a free society as education and the National Health Service."
B) The Westminster rally was also addressed by Janis Sharp, the mother of Gary McKinnon, who fought extradition to the US over computer-hacking charges, and Patrick Maguire, one of the Maguire Seven wrongly convicted in the 1970s of handling explosives.
Sharp said that without legal aid lawyers, her son would have taken his own life, while Maguire warned of an increase in undetected miscarriages of justice if the cuts are implemented.
C) "Labour MP for Westminster North Karen Buck said it is not just high-profile cases that will be affected; people from all backgrounds can find themselves accused of crimes. She stressed in particular the potential impact on young people, especially those who are homeless or who lack family support.
Many such people, she said, ask her for help finding a lawyer to represent them. ‘I am proud of the local legal aid firms who give them representation,’ she said but expressed concern that this may become harder in the future.
‘The relationship between the legal profession and [justice secretary] Chris Grayling and the government has broken down – that is a sad and worrying circumstance,’ added Buck."
The following - extracted from Twitter - show some of the protests at various court locations:
Legal Aid cuts: Protesting barristers refuse to attend Teesside court 'for first time ever' http://t.co/x5hEIkk14K pic.twitter.com/maK3kewFor
— Evening Gazette (@EveningGazette) January 6, 2014
Impressive turnout for #legalaid protest at Westminster today: pic.twitter.com/QHcgYEcmxb (h/t @njbarmstrong)
— John Hyde (@JohnHyde1982) January 6, 2014
We became lawyers to protect people's rights & access to justice. This fight is to safeguard those cherished ideals pic.twitter.com/f2hFXZI7N9
— Dexter Dias QC (@DexterDiasQC) January 6, 2014
#savelegalaid at the Old Bailey pic.twitter.com/1gFDY9q8go
— Helen Trotter (@helen_trotter) January 6, 2014
@TheCriminalBar Meeting at Liverpool Crown Court #saveukjustice pic.twitter.com/FFdopOTZe9
— Mark Ainsworth (@mcrbrief) January 6, 2014
RT: @RaziaJogi Lawyers unite outside Bradford Combined Court. #Walkout4Justice to #fight4legalaid. pic.twitter.com/9pCAHNK3ZU
— Shoaib M Khan (@UK_HumanRights) January 6, 2014
Picture just in of #barristers at #Birmingham Crown Court walking out over legal aid cuts. pic.twitter.com/DKq1lQGI99
— Express & Star (@ExpressandStar) January 6, 2014
If you haven't seen this impressive piece on legal aid and justice then you should http://t.co/o1NuTyWmWs
— CrimeLine.info® (@CrimeLineLaw) January 6, 2014
Very good explanation of why criminal justice matters: http://t.co/iItEKf2oum
— Jon Mack (@JonDMack) January 6, 2014
"British justice, so long the envy of the world, will be a pathetic shadow of itself" @MChawlaQC on legal aid cuts > http://t.co/dOgSzBXqAH
— HLE (@HLEThinkTank) January 6, 2014
Public will pay for "lazy, ill-judged and socially regressive policy" says @MChawlaQC on legal aid and fee cuts > http://t.co/dOgSzBXqAH
— HLE (@HLEThinkTank) January 6, 2014
The case for opposing legal aid cuts: concisely and succinctly stated - watch the video http://t.co/jIKWLsZQKm
— ObiterJ (@ObiterJ) January 6, 2014