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Solicitors and barristers stage walkout of Gloucestershire's court over cuts to legal aid

By EchoLauraC  |  Posted: January 06, 2014

Gloucester Crown Court

Comments (9)

Solicitors and barristers have staged a walkout this morning causing disruption to Gloucestershire’s courts.

It is the first time they have withdrawn their services in protest of government plans to slash legal aid fees by up to 30 per cent.

No defending lawyers were present at Gloucester Crown Court this morning and Gloucester Magistrates’ Court was shut.

Stroud and Cheltenham magistrates courts are said to be running as normal.

They have already seen a 40 per cent decrease in the funding of criminal cases since 1997.

Lawyers are warning that if the Ministry of Justice continues to make cuts it will lead to lower quality legal representation, miscarriages of justices and more criminals walking free from court.

They argue that no other public sector has been subjected to such swingeing cuts.

The Criminal Bar Association said the unprecedented action came with anger at "boiling point".

Nigel Lithman QC, chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, said: "A line has to be drawn in the sand before it's too late. The cuts pose the most serious threat to the British legal system in more than 400 years.

"The government says it is tough on crime, but is stripping the criminal justice system of anyone able to adequately prosecute serious criminals or defend those falsely accused.

"We merely seek a pay freeze. What could be more reasonable than that? I have offered to engage with the Lord Chancellor as to how to make savings across the system."

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  • lewipaul  |  January 07 2014, 2:18PM

    My solicitor charges £180 per hour, my plumber charges £30 and he guarantees to fix my problem???????.

  • Walker100b  |  January 06 2014, 5:49PM

    RoadWombat. The charges and cuts affect all court users in all court systems.

    |   -23
  • RoadWombat  |  January 06 2014, 3:20PM

    Walker100b: It's the Crown Court that's being talked about here, dealing with real crimes - not people trying to make a quick buck off one another in the civil court.

  • Kay_Powell  |  January 06 2014, 3:18PM

    Radio 4 this morning said that the average salary for barristers is £84K. As there are some top barristers with earnings into the hundreds of thousands, and possibly millions, that means that there are lots of others with rather modest salaries. They don't get disgustingly rich by doing legal aid work.

    |   -27
  • Walker100b  |  January 06 2014, 1:24PM

    The fact is that ALL should be entitled to fair justice. This is no longer happening. If you are unfairly dismissed from your job, for example, you now have to pay an up front fee to launch a case at Tribunal. This could be as much as £1200. For someone who is out of work that is just not possible. Fixed fees for solicitors and barristers mean they are unable to do the additional work required to ensure a defendant gets the best defence they can. Time is limited by the Legal Services Commission (Legal Aid) contracts. Even the Service of papers on Respondents has had costs severely limited (When a Process Server has to Serve legal papers on a respondent it is usually at least two hours work once paperwork has been done and Affidavits sworn etc.) to as little as £23. Taking into account that a Process Server may be facing violent or aggressive offenders. And that £23 includes any travel costs incurred by the Process Server. As such many Process Servers refuse to take on Legal Aid work anymore.

    |   -29
  • Hubert1841  |  January 06 2014, 1:13PM

    Well said, mystery1. I love putting the boot into the establishment and the elite as much as the next person, but, to quote Owen Jones "the Government's decimation of legal aid makes justice the preserve of the rich". It IS essential that they are standing up for this.

  • mystery1  |  January 06 2014, 1:06PM

    http://tinyurl.com/q4cwjad - £30k per year in Bristol, as an example. So not 6 figures.

  • mystery1  |  January 06 2014, 12:47PM

    Most criminal aid solicitors/barristers outside of London are most definitely NOT on 6 figure salaries. Just because they wear suits to work doesn't mean they earn a fortune. I don't understand why people think ALL lawyers must be minted. It's like assuming a Cheltenham Town player earns the same as someone at Real Madrid (no offence to Gloucestershire based criminal lawyers, or Cheltenham Town players for that matter!). The legal aid cuts are unacceptable for various reasons and I think it's sad that teachers, firefighters, and now lawyers just get negative comments when they stand up for themselves. You don't have to be "the worst off" to be allowed to stand up for yourself.

  • nickthompson  |  January 06 2014, 11:56AM

    What a pity these well heeled people were not protesting about how these cuts would only effect poor people, rather than the loss of a few pounds from their six figure salaries.