Criminal defence solicitors across the country began to refuse to do legal aid work at the start of the month.
Huge meetings in Manchester, Leeds, Nottingham, Devon, Wales, Bristol and London voted to support this action.
Magistrates’ courts and police stations are grinding to a halt. Courts are sitting until night to get through the cases.
Instead of locking people up overnight, police are bailing people out.
We are simply doing what we are paid to do and no more. The action amounts to a work to rule by a profession which is not unionised.
The Tories appointed Michael Gove as justice secretary after his disastrous impact on our schools as education minister.
The coalition government had continued the attacks on the right to legal aid which were started by the previous Labour government.
Solicitors and barristers have already taken action. This led to a small concession when the government decided not to impose the next round of cuts until the new contracts in October this year.
Gove’s first move was to bring the next cuts in straightaway on 1 July. That is why solicitors are taking action.
Like any worker whose job involves the vulnerable this is not something that has been undertaken lightly.
We know people who depend on us are in police stations and courts on their own. But if we don’t do something now that will happen anyway.
We defend people accused of crime. The Tories automatically see them as criminals and therefore undeserving.
But it could be any one of us facing the might of the state with its courts, prosecutors, judges and police.
Legal aid work isn’t about fat cat lawyers. Newly qualified defence solicitors earn a pittance compared to those who prosecute.
If you choose to be a prosecutor your starting salary would be at least £15,000 more and includes a pension. And no night work.
Our work involves going to the police stations at all times of the day and night and going to court, providing a proper defence for the most needy in society.
A firm of solicitors is paid roughly £200 for attending the police station and less than £300 for going to court. That is for the whole case which can take months of work and many court hearings. Some of the best lawyers are being forced to leave the profession.
Now barristers are balloting to join in the action. That will effectively halt the Crown Courts as well. Teachers got rid of Gove—lawyers can too.