Criminal barristers across the country have protesed today in response to the government's plans to cut legal aid fees by 30%. Barristers did not attend court until 2pm in opposition to the Ministry of Justice's proposals. However, vulnerable cases such as those involving rape victims were not disrupted.
According to the Criminal Bar Association, today's protest was the first in the history of the criminal bar. However, the barristers and solicitors involved have been careful not to describe the action as a 'strike' because that would raise questions about contractual obligations to the Legal Aid Agency. Nearly 300 London lawyers attended a training event today at Islington Assembly Hall, many after a demonstration against legal aid cuts outside Westminster Magistrates Court this morning.
Nigel Lithman, Chairman of the CBA, said: 'The protest on Monday is the first in the history of the criminal bar. That it is necessary in order to try and prevent the slide of the Criminal Justice system into chaos and the criminal bar into oblivion make it a sad day. Those taking the action wish to send a message to the Lord Chancellor that this, along with cuts to their pay, is unacceptable.'
Many publicly funded family lawyers are also struggling due to legal aid cuts. Since April 2013, nearly all family law advice has been removed from the legal aid scheme. Tooks Chambers stopped accepting new instructions in October as cuts to the legal aid budget meant that it was impossible for the set's work, 90% of which was publicly funded, to continue. The highly respected set, which was established in 1984, formally dissolved on Friday 27 December 2013.