JusticeWatch: ‘For years we have watched the wheels coming off’

Barristers are expected to begin direct action to protest over a scheme for advocacy fees as from the weekend – as reported on LegalVoice today here.

At the start of the week, the Guardian reported that that barristers were threatening to down wigs in direct action in protest at changes to the advocates’ graduated fee scheme. Owen Bowcott covered the protest meeting organised by the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association and the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association for the launch of ‘the charter for justice’. ‘For years we have watched the wheels coming off and the gradual build up to a crisis,’ said LCCSA’s Greg Foxsmith.

Angela Rafferty, CBA chair, predicted ‘overwhelming support for unified action’. ‘The last thing we want to do is not to work or to take action… However, everything is at breaking point at once, including us,’ she said.

The Law Society’s Gazette reckoned solicitors had ‘strongly indicated that they will stand shoulder to shoulder with the bar should their barrister “friends” decide to take action against further government cuts to the legal aid budget’.

According to the Times’ Brief newsletter, the barrister and former Tory MP Jerry Hayes ‘poured cold water’ over plans for a vigil planned for April 18 outside the Ministry of Justice. ‘Politicians — and governments — are only motivated by ways they can get elected,’ he said. ‘You can have as many candlelit vigils as you like: they won’t achieve anything.’

The reason that the previous industrial action was successful in delaying fee cuts, was that it ‘brought the system to its knees. Criminal justice stopped. That’s why you’ve got to be involved … we are going to have to bring the system to a halt.’

You can read the Charter for Justice here.

‘I am the child of two legal aid solicitors,’ wrote Laurie Penny in the New Statesman. The journalist and campaigner spent her summers working as a clerk to the court, ‘taking notes as hard-working criminal defence lawyers tried to prevent miscarriages of justice and stop kids who had made one stupid mistake from going to prison for decades’.

‘What I learned is that the world is not divided between those people who are innocent of any crime and those people who deserve to be locked in a cage for the rest of their lives. Most of us fall somewhere in between, and that means that some day we might need a lawyer.’
Laurie Penny

Penny reflected that the legal system was ‘not the easiest client to defend, especially not when Tory austerity is already brutalising health care, welfare and education’. ‘But good lawyers don’t only take cases that are easy to win,’ she wrote. ‘Public-service lawyers take every case that deserves defending. And right now legal aid needs defending, or there’s going to be a miscarriage of justice that will stain our conscience for generations.’


About Jon Robins

Jon is a journalist and has written about the law and justice for the national papers and specialist press for more than 15 years. Jon is a visiting journalism lecturer at Winchester University, a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln and patron of Hackney Community Law Centre. He has won the Bar Council’s legal reporter of the year award twice (2015 and 2005). Jon is editor and co-founder of LegalVoice

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