The chairman of the Criminal Bar Association (CBA), Nigel Lithman QC, announced this morning that ‘individual members of the CBA have decided that they will no longer be available/will not work during the day of 7 March.’
The date will coincide with a nationally co-ordinated training day for solicitors, including training at The Law Society, which was called last night by the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association (CLSA) and London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association (LCCSA).
The announcement of a full day walk-out comes following two separate meetings with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) yesterday – one with Bar Council chairman Nick Lavender QC and the other with representatives from the solicitors’ profession.
According to Lithman, the feedback from the meetings was that ‘there is nothing fresh to report’. CLSA and LCCSA representatives said that it was clear that the MoJ ‘is not willing to engage constructively with solicitors nor are they willing to meet with a joint delegation of solicitors and barristers to hear the shared concerns of the profession.’
Lithman also announced that, as well as walking out of court on 7 March, individual members of the CBA have decided that, with effect from 7 March, they will ‘suspend their willingness to undertake returns for other members of the Bar and will only do their own work.’ He added: ‘Those of you who want to show your support will decide whether you too will do the same.’
The decision from the CBA and solicitors’ representative bodies to call a full day walk-out follows the profession’s half day of action last month, when Magistrates’ and Crown courts across the country were ground to a halt throughout the morning.
Announcing the second day of action, Lithman slammed the MoJ for its ‘slash and burn’ legal aid policy, and for ‘knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing’.
‘It does not matter that we have shown these savings are not in fact necessary. It does not matter that we have shown them the false economy of their proposals or that such savage cuts will cost the Government more than they save in the long run….They do not care about the fundamental rights of the thousands of individuals who may need access to justice, fair and proper legal representation in the future.’
Nigel Lithman QC
Last weekend, a national meeting of solicitors and barristers held in Lincoln’s Inn resolved for the profession to speak with ‘one voice’ against the proposed cuts. ‘The purpose of any action must be to show the Government the depth of the resolve among the legal profession to speak as one voice,’ said Lithman.
He concluded that the planned day of action and criminal bar’s decision to refuse to accept returns from other barristers was a ‘wholly reasonable and proportionate response to the conduct of the MoJ’.
Lithman added that, should the Ministry agree to halt the cuts and ‘engage meaningfully in an effective dialogue with the CBA’, a withdrawal of labour would become ‘unnecessary’.
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