Monday, 31 March 2014

A pivotal decision for the Criminal Bar

Last week, Barristers called off further planned protest action over legal aid having entered into a deal with the Ministry of Justice  to suspend some of the cuts until after the 2015 general election - The Guardian 27th March.   The agreement between the Ministry of Justice, Bar Council and Criminal Bar Association is available via the Ministry website.   This is proving to be controversial.  In a statement of 28th March about the agreement, Nigel Lithman QC stated that there would be a ballot:

“Do you wish to continue no returns and days of action until all the cuts and reduction in contracts are abandoned”



The case for a NO vote is now set out by Mr Lithman on the Criminal Bar Association website - (Rocks and Hard Places).  Crimeline has published a case by Mr Ian West of Fountain Chambers, Middlesborough for a YES vote - CBA Vote Yes.  See also Charon QC - Guest Post 4th April - A call to arms - why we must hold the line.

Earlier post .... Putting off the evil day or a viable pathway for the criminal justice system?

Additional Comments:

On the side of a YES vote is a piece by Christine Eadie and published via the Criminal Bar association   In another letter to that website a senior junior says A Plague on both your Houses.   The Vice Chair of the Criminal Bar Association offers 27 points to consider if thinking of voting Yes.

Protests by others:

Protests by Solicitors and Probation Officers are continuing - The Guardian 31st March.  Criminal solicitors and probation officers have begun 48 hours of industrial action in protest against cuts to legal aid and the privatising of offender rehabilitation services.

There is also concern that further Ministry of Justice inspired changes to Judicial Review will have a chilling effect on challenging poor government decision-making, leading to a situation of state impunity.

The Ministry of Justice has laid before Parliament new regulations aimed at introducing a residency test for legal aid.  REPRIEVE argues that this will deny justice to a wide range of people wronged by the UK Government – from victims of torture and rendition to Gurkhas and Afghan interpreters denied the right to settle in Britain.

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