Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling told the justice select committee earlier this month, ‘I have given an assurance that if people come up with alternatives, I will look at them, but no-one has.’ Des Hudson, chief executive of the Law Society has also waded in, challenging other practitioner groups such as the CBA to ‘articulate what is their alternative’.
However, Nigel Lithman QC, chair of the CBA, said: ‘Absolute nonsense.
‘He [Grayling] has rejected every offer we have made, and we have made plenty. We have offered him the best brains at the Bar to help him to work out what cuts to make. I made that offer at a meeting in the first week of September.
‘What I hoped for was for the Bar to make input into the criminal advocacy inquiry and at the same time for that committee to consider appropriate remuneration, and instead the Lord Chancellor has chosen to hold the inquiry after he has made the cuts. He is closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.’
While the CBA, Criminal Law Solicitors Association and London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association have fiercely contested the proposals to cut Very High Cost Cases by 30% and impose a 17.5% cut in fees across the board, the Law Society has taken a more conciliatory approach. This has angered many criminal law solicitors, some of whom have accused the Law Society of ‘appeasement’ and ‘surrender’.
Hudson’s defence, set out in an open letter on the subject this month, is that professional bodies need to ‘engage’ with the Justice Secretary rather than simply oppose.
Is it fair to say that the Bar did not engage with the Lord Chancellor over this?
Lithman dismisses this suggestion as ‘absolute rubbish’. He said he is due to meet Grayling on Monday with ‘a group of six barristers of all seniorities and both sexes’ to discuss the reforms.
He said: ‘There is a depth of talent at the Bar that can look right across the spectrum of cases from cradle to grave to look at inefficiencies that can be tackled.’
Lithman said Grayling had told him he wants to make £24m of cuts to criminal advocacy, adding: ‘In seeking to save £24m he is driving away the best barristers and will leave the public deprived of anyone of any quality.’
Meanwhile barristers and other advocates are planning a boycott of criminal cases. Will this be going ahead as planned in the next few weeks?
Lithman said: ‘A step by step process is being implemented.’
A rally against the cuts will take place at Inner Temple on 16 November.
- UK breaches environmental access to justice duty - 19th March 2014
- Legal aid lawyers to boycott Grayling’s flagship Magna Carta conference - 21st February 2014
- Communication breakdown: what’s going on with the legal aid helpline? - 21st January 2014
- More national protests to come - 12th January 2014
- James Parry: “The Law Society has got to listen” - 8th January 2014
- Bar keep steady line on VHCC protest - 8th December 2013
- Communication breakdown - 4th December 2013
- The real cost of pay day loans - 28th November 2013
- James Parry: ‘These cuts will lead to two-tier service’ - 14th November 2013
- CLSA: Proposed fee cuts will create ‘advice deserts’ - 5th November 2013