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Criminal Legal Aid: Cuts, Protests and Fall Outs

The debacle over the Ministry of Justice’s plans to slice £215m out of England and Wales’ annual legal aid budget continues.  Criminal solicitors and probation officers staged a two day walk out on 30th March and 1st April.  The combined demonstration’s aim was to bring the criminal justice system in magistrates and crown courts across England and Wales to a standstill. 

In an interesting twist, barristers did not join their colleagues after the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) and the Bar Council struck a last-minute deal with the government.  The deal means that the government will not make cuts to the advocates graduated fee scheme until at least next summer.  The deal is therefore aimed at helping junior barristers in the short term.  For more information on the deal itself please click here to read CBA Chairman’s statement.

The CBA and the Bar Council have come under criticism from solicitors and their own members over the deal. Individual barrister chambers, including 4 King’s Bench Walk (4KBW) and Garden Court, voiced their opposition to the deal being struck.  Gavin Holme, head of the crime team at 4KBW, wrote on the chamber’s website that the action barristers and solicitors were taking together had been working.  He added:
 “….It is likely that some of you may view this capitulation by the CBA as being the Bar purely looking after its own interests.  I have great sympathy for that view.”

His view however was not shared with the majority of his colleagues as on 9th April criminal barristers voted 2:1 in favour of accepting the deal offered by the government.  It is noteworthy that fewer than half of the Criminal Bar Association’s 4000 members voted in the ballot. 

There is no doubt that there will be further developments on this very live issue in future Updates!  In the meantime, you can read The Guardian’s article focusing on the views of Imran Khan, the lawyer who acted for Stephen Lawrence’s family, entitled ‘I wouldn’t take case with today’s legal aid cuts.’

Criminal Law, Legal Aid