Barristers and solicitors take unprecedented action to protest against cuts to legal aid fees

LEGAL ACTION: Barristers protest outside Teesside Crown Court

JUSTICE FEARS: The demonstration outside Newcastle Crown Court

First published in News
Last updated
The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

CRIMINAL courts in the region were severely disrupted when barristers and solicitors joined an unprecedented national protest against Government plans to slash legal aid fees.

As many as 50 barristers and solicitors gathered outside Teesside Crown Court as work there ground to a halt this morning.

At the same time, dozens of supporters demonstrated on the steps of Newcastle Crown Court holding banners and placards.

Ian West, from Fountain Chambers in Middlesbrough, said that he was "very pleased" with the support for the action.

"We hope the message is finally getting through to Chris Grayling," he said.

"All of our opposition to his plans thus far has had no impact."

Justice Secretary Mr Grayling controversially wants to cut fees as part of a bid to slash £220m from the legal aid budget by 2018-19.

But his proposals have angered criminal lawyers who say they could force many in their profession to leave to do civil work.

The Ministry of Justice says that 1,200 barristers working full time on publicly-funded legal aid cases earned £100,000 each last year.

The Government figures are also said to show that six others picked up more than 500,000 each last year for the same type of work.

But lawyers' leader Nigel Lithman, said the same statistics showed that the average barrister on the cases earned about £36,000 each.

The chairman of the Criminal Bar Association said: "There are simply going to be no people of any ability prepared to do criminal legal aid work."

He highlighted the case of one barrister who earned just £13,680 in her second year as a lawyer and added: "The protest 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 makes it a sad day."

Mr West said the protests had been mirrored across the country and added: "It is a sad day when it has come to the point where professional people have no line of communication with politicians.

"We wanted the Government to know that we object to what they are doing, and we wanted to bring to the attention of the public what they are about to do to the criminal justice system."

Newcastle barrister Caroline Goodwin said there had been a good response to the protest from members of the bar and solicitors, as well as members of the probation service.

She added: "Junior members of the future bar are no longer coming into criminal practice, because it is not considered financially viable to work in this particular area - and the quality will reduce.

"This will have a definite impact on the public, as those who prosecute the most serious cases will not be available.

"Those who defend also prosecute and across the board there is going to be a reduction in quality.

"It will mean those who should be convicted could potentially go free and you will probably find miscarriages of justice where innocent people requiring defence are convicted."

Comments (8)

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6:06pm Mon 6 Jan 14

LegalPoodle says...

Glad to see that this went so well. Hopefully Failing Grayling will finally realise that the proposals just aren't good enough.

£198 million of the proposed £220 million (proposed in 2011/2012) has already been cut from the budget leaving only £22 million to cut by 2018/2019. These cuts just aren't needed and certainly not at the expense of justice.

It is a proud day for the criminal bar!
Glad to see that this went so well. Hopefully Failing Grayling will finally realise that the proposals just aren't good enough. £198 million of the proposed £220 million (proposed in 2011/2012) has already been cut from the budget leaving only £22 million to cut by 2018/2019. These cuts just aren't needed and certainly not at the expense of justice. It is a proud day for the criminal bar! LegalPoodle
  • Score: -6

6:36pm Mon 6 Jan 14

stevegg says...

Taxpayers still have one of the most expensive lgal aid bills in the world even AFTER these cuts at over £2 billion pounds. Great for those who get it but normal hardworking taxpayers dont normally qualify and have to fund their own legal measures.
Taxpayers still have one of the most expensive lgal aid bills in the world even AFTER these cuts at over £2 billion pounds. Great for those who get it but normal hardworking taxpayers dont normally qualify and have to fund their own legal measures. stevegg
  • Score: 3

7:25pm Mon 6 Jan 14

Voice-of-reality says...

The majority of normal tax payers do get legal aid for criminal case. I would agree, however, that legal aid should not be given to those who have never paid income tax or national insurance and no immigrant should get legal aid until they have been resident for 5 years and paid 5 years of NI and income tax. The benefits of being part of the state should only come after personal taxation has been paid. Thereafter, surely, we would all want the best possible legal advice we could get in the event of any of us being charged with anything.
Further c.13,000 doesn't seem much for someone who has had to pay to qualify - I wouldn't have thought that newly qualified teachers would be happy if they were offered so little
The majority of normal tax payers do get legal aid for criminal case. I would agree, however, that legal aid should not be given to those who have never paid income tax or national insurance and no immigrant should get legal aid until they have been resident for 5 years and paid 5 years of NI and income tax. The benefits of being part of the state should only come after personal taxation has been paid. Thereafter, surely, we would all want the best possible legal advice we could get in the event of any of us being charged with anything. Further c.13,000 doesn't seem much for someone who has had to pay to qualify - I wouldn't have thought that newly qualified teachers would be happy if they were offered so little Voice-of-reality
  • Score: -2

7:26pm Mon 6 Jan 14

deltazebedee says...

As a member of the general public i find it disgusting that those of the legal fraternity should act in such a way. If they no longer feel the legal profession pays what they believe they're worth perhaps they should find alternative employment. No one is worth £100,000 a year...certainly not barristers. Lose the money grabbers and we'll be left with those who care about the job; ergo a higher likelihood of justice. As for those who should be convicted potentially going free and the innocent suffering miscarriages of justice, these things happen irrespective of how much a barrister is or is not paid. Justice is supposed to be free to everyone.
As a member of the general public i find it disgusting that those of the legal fraternity should act in such a way. If they no longer feel the legal profession pays what they believe they're worth perhaps they should find alternative employment. No one is worth £100,000 a year...certainly not barristers. Lose the money grabbers and we'll be left with those who care about the job; ergo a higher likelihood of justice. As for those who should be convicted potentially going free and the innocent suffering miscarriages of justice, these things happen irrespective of how much a barrister is or is not paid. Justice is supposed to be free to everyone. deltazebedee
  • Score: 0

10:47pm Mon 6 Jan 14

darloboss says...

Voice-of-reality aka joke
Voice-of-reality aka joke darloboss
  • Score: 2

10:25am Tue 7 Jan 14

David Lacey says...

Picture in today's paper of a barrister on strike carrying a £1,500 handbag.
.
HILARIOUS!!
Picture in today's paper of a barrister on strike carrying a £1,500 handbag. . HILARIOUS!! David Lacey
  • Score: 0

1:50pm Tue 7 Jan 14

Jackaranda says...

There's wonga to be made as a Human Rights Lawyer, ask Blair's missus, mind it helped that he sanctioned the Act for her, one supposes!
There's wonga to be made as a Human Rights Lawyer, ask Blair's missus, mind it helped that he sanctioned the Act for her, one supposes! Jackaranda
  • Score: 0

2:33pm Tue 7 Jan 14

winterwoodcock says...

David Lacey wrote:
Picture in today's paper of a barrister on strike carrying a £1,500 handbag.
.
HILARIOUS!!
Really hilarious when you find out she got it as a present from her widowed mother for caring so much for her terminally ill father who was dying from cancer.
[quote][p][bold]David Lacey[/bold] wrote: Picture in today's paper of a barrister on strike carrying a £1,500 handbag. . HILARIOUS!![/p][/quote]Really hilarious when you find out she got it as a present from her widowed mother for caring so much for her terminally ill father who was dying from cancer. winterwoodcock
  • Score: 0

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