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Barristers stage protest against legal aid cuts

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More than 50 barristers walked out of Preston Crown Court in a protest over cuts to legal aid, which will see their fees slashed by up to 30 per cent.

The lawyers, who undertake work for the prosecution and defence, say the government cuts “place the future of the criminal justice system in jeopardy”.

Tony Cross QC said: “We have already warned the government about their proposed course and its consequences.

“They know already that barristers and their solicitor colleagues who practise in crime and who protect our liberty do not earn the mythical sums that Government speak of.

“The average figure for barristers working in Preston Crown Court is less than £30,000 a year.

“The government spins these figures to suggest that all barristers are fat cats and it is simply not true.

“The barristers who prosecute and defend at Preston are doing the best they can for the people of Lancashire.

“We provide not only defence counsel but prosecutors.

“We train the barristers of the future at our expense.

“Every barrister who appears on these steps today both prosecutes and defends. The government hasn’t put one penny towards their training. It has all been carried out by the bar.”

Stuart Denny QC said: “We have seen a fall in the quality of applicants for pupillage, particularly in criminal law.

“If you were a bright law graduate who wanted to come to the bar, you would do anything but crime.

“The pay of those at the top of the criminal bar is not comparable to those at the top of other branches of law, such as insurance law or clinical negligence. The criminal bar is not going to survive these cuts.

“It will disappear and once it has gone, it will never come back.

“If the public wants to see crime prosecuted and defended properly then reasonable funding has to be in place. These cuts are way below the line of what is reasonable.”

Mr Cross QC added: “We will do what we have been trained to do: fight for justice.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We agree legal aid is a vital part of our justice system – that’s why we have to find efficiencies to ensure it remains sustainable and available to those most in need of a lawyer.”

“Agencies involved in the criminal justice system will take steps to minimise any upset court disruption could cause for victims and witnesses involved in trials.”

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