Solicitors and barristers were set to bring the court system to a halt on Friday of this week in a strike against attacks on legal aid. Tory justice secretary Chris Grayling has now set his final raft of cuts.
They include £215 million being slashed from the legal aid budget. This will mean cuts to the fees of barristers and solicitors.
As a result many will lose their jobs as firms close. The quality of aid provided to poor people will be driven down.
“It’s not about our fees—it’s about the effect that the cuts will have on clients” a junior barrister told Socialist Worker.
Some argue that the strike will have a detrimental affect on defendants awaiting trial.
Jonathan Black is the vice president at London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association. He told Socialist Worker, “The effect is minimal compared to the impact that the reforms will have on the quality of representation in the justice system.
“Firms are going to move towards a model where their clients are treated like commodities being represented by lawyers with insufficient experience and expertise.”
A morning walkout by barristers in January is estimated to have cost the government £1 million. Friday’s planned strike has clearly rattled those at the top.
The Criminal Prosecution Service (CPS) sent a letter to heads of chambers saying that the strike threatens the relationship between the CPS and the Criminal Bar.
They also warned barristers that they may lose work if they choose to take part in the action on Friday. But lawyers remain determined to fight the cuts.
Jonathan said, “Many people don’t appreciate the worth of a quality lawyer until they experience the criminal justice system.
“An innocent person does not ask the state to prosecute them, so ought to be entitled to quality free representation.”