The London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association (LCCSA) and Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association (CLSA) announced on Friday that they would be joining criminal barristers on a morning of ‘non-attendance’ in courts, following a vote by criminal defence solicitors from all over England and Wales at a meeting in Birmingham on Thursday.
The vote means that both Crown and magistrates’ courts will be affected by the protest, which will take place on the first working day after the Christmas break.
Lawyers hope to show the government and the public the extent of the damage that fee cuts of between 17.5% and 30% will have on courts all over the country.
LCCSA president Nicola Hill said: ‘Solicitors don’t take this action lightly. A very short period of disruption should serve as a wake-up call. These cuts aren’t just about the legal profession. Far from it.
‘These new fees will see cut-price, often inadequate legal advice being dispensed to people whose liberty is at stake and trials collapsing because of poor representation. We’re on a slippery slope towards a justice system which sees more innocent people going to jail and the guilty walking free. Reluctantly, like barristers, we’ve been driven to this.’
Bill Waddington, chair of the CLSA, said: ‘The morning of 6 January is a glimpse into the future of the criminal justice system under the proposals, with a shortage of suitable representation for those who need it. Rightly, our system is the envy of the world. If these plans go through it’ll become an international laughing stock.’
An MoJ spokesperson said: ‘At around £2bn a year we have one of the most expensive legal aid systems in the world. Just like many hard-pressed families and businesses – we have no choice but to make savings.
‘Any disruption to court business is unnecessary, and lawyers choosing to do so inconvenience their clients and hard-working taxpayers. The [MoJ, Legal Aid Agency and courts service] will work together and take all steps possible to minimise the upset this could cause for victims, witnesses and other court users.’
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