‘Cuts to legal aid will erode justice’

Legal battle: Barristers are set to walk out and below: Judge Woolman
Legal battle: Barristers are set to walk out and below: Judge Woolman
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Barristers in Lancashire will stage a walk out from the courts for the first time ever in a protest over cuts to legal aid.

Those behind the move say it could prevent cases scheduled for Monday from going ahead.

Judge Andrew Woolman

Judge Andrew Woolman

Lawyers who are members of the Criminal Bar will assemble outside Preston Crown Court on Ringway as part of protests held at major courts across the country.

Members said they are angry over the Government’s plans to slash legal aid by 30 per cent.

They claim the cuts could jeopardise the progress of cases and give lawyers hourly pay rates lower than the minimum wage.

Tony Cross QC, Vice Chairman of the Criminal Bar Association said: “We believe these cuts will see off the independent bar and will see the closure of many solicitors firms.

“We believe it is the end for a legal system which is famed the world over.

“People will simply not join the criminal bar and consequently those great judges who have sat at Preston such as Mr justice Henriques and Mr Justice Openshaw will no longer go to the criminal bar, because the rewards will be so low.”

In a recent speech at the end of a complex trial at Preston Crown Court, Judge Andrew Woolman said the ‘continuing erosion’ of the criminal bar caused by the government’s funding cuts is a matter which ‘acutely concerns all criminal judges’.

He said: “The judges need a bar which is well-trained, properly motivated and adequately rewarded. Otherwise the judges’ task in dispensing justice will become difficult if not impossible.

“Miscarriages of justice will occur.

“No longer will it be possible for those youngsters who come from ordinary backgrounds, let alone poor backgrounds, to contemplate a career at the criminal bar.”