The motion – proposed by Liverpool solicitor advocate James Parry – declares that members have ‘no confidence’ in the ability of Nicholas Fluck, president of the Law Society, and Des Hudson, chief executive, to ‘properly and effectively represent’ legal aid solicitors in negotiations with the justice secretary, Chris Grayling.
It was passed by 228 votes to 213, with nine abstentions, in a secret ballot using electronic voting equipment at Chancery Lane this morning.
Prior to the meeting, Parry said that the purpose of the SGM was to let the government know that ‘the majority of criminal practitioners are of the belief that the 17.5% cuts will make their businesses unsustainable and the consolidation models are both unnecessary and unachievable’.
In an open letter to Hudson, Parry criticised the Society for entering into agreements with the government without a mandate to do so and said that what has been proposed by the government ‘must be challenged and defeated’.
Giving a speech to the SGM, Law Society president Nicholas Fluck said: ‘Because of the fight the Law Society has put up – and I can assure you it has been a fight – the secretary of state is now starting to understand why there is a real need for more criminal legal aid practitioners than he first thought.’ He continued:
‘I think we have every chance of more victories if we do that by using all means at our disposal, and as well as shouting that has to include engagement.’
Following the vote, Law Society chief executive Desmond Hudson (pictured) said: ‘Despite the extremely close result, this is a disappointing outcome. Council are meeting this afternoon to consider our response and our plans for continuing our campaign against cuts to legal aid. While they are not bound by the vote, we are a democratic organisation and they will give consideration to all opinions expressed during this morning’s meeting.’
As noted by David Gilmore yesterday on LegalVoice, despite the motion being passed by members, it is unlikely that it will be approved by the Law Society Council unless Hudson or Fluck offers to resign.
‘Given that the Law Society council overwhelmingly supported the decision to engage with Chris Grayling, it would be a huge shock if it reversed its support and endorsed James Parry’s motion,’ said Gilmore.
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