Lawyers’ day of action over cuts

Action: Preston Crown Court
Action: Preston Crown Court
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Barristers in Lancashire will hold a day of action on Friday 7th March in protest against cuts to the legal aid system that they say will harm the British justice system.

Lawyers at Preston Crown Court will not attend proceedings on Friday as part of action taken by the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association (CLSA).

The move comes in response to plans set out by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling to slash the number of law firms eligible to offer duty solicitor services by two-thirds.

A spokesman for the CLSA said: “This vital service was introduced by a Conservative government after the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 reformed police procedures following a number of ‘miscarriage of justice’ cases which came to light during the 1970s and 1980s.

“The Duty Solicitor Scheme is being dissected by this Government under the guise of saving money when lawyers have demonstrated that it will do nothing of the sort.

“Hand in hand with this reform the Government is making an immediate cut of 8.75 per cent in what lawyers are paid to represent individuals in police stations and courts. The first 8.75 per cent will apply to cases on or after March 20. There will be another 8.75 per cent reduction in 12 months time.”

The long awaited response to Mr Grayling’s second Consultation on Transforming Criminal Legal Aid sets out plans to reduce the number of law firms eligible to offer duty solicitor advice and representation at police stations 24 hours a day from 1600 current providers to 525.

The same lawyers also provide duty solicitors at magistrates courts six days a week to assist those who do not have a lawyer of their own. The spokesman said: “From the smallest to the largest firm of solicitors, the effect of this first round of fee cuts will be redundancies for staff and lawyers as margins will not survive even the first round of cuts. Within months high street firms will begin laying off staff and reducing the service they are able to provide to those subject to a police investigation or charged with or summoned for a criminal offence.

“The lawyers will not be going to court because they can see what the Lord Chancellor refuses to see.”

Barristers will instead attend the first of a series of training day.

Justice Secretary Mr Grayling has said the current system is inefficient and the reforms will still give people generous aid.