On 27 March 2014, the chair of the Criminal Bar Association (CBA), Nigel Lithman QC, announced that all current action including the “no returns policy” will be suspended to allow constructive engagement with the Government. In return the Ministry of Justice has agreed that forthcoming fee cuts affecting criminal barristers will be suspended until Summer 2015. It has been reported that the deal is about helping poorly paid barristers in the short term.
As an organisation that includes practising and aspiring barristers and solicitors, all dedicated to working in legal aid, we wish to express our dismay that the CBA has taken this unilateral action. At a time when the Government is making continued attacks on access to justice through cuts to civil and criminal legal aid it is now more important than ever that the legal profession displays a united front.
In addition, as a group consisting of junior lawyers, we are concerned that this decision – which simply postpones the implementation of the cuts – will not be of benefit to junior barristers in the long term. If fee cuts affecting solicitors proceed, as we understand they will, then it seems likely that many criminal law firms will be forced to close. This will not be good for solicitors, for the bar or for our clients. We welcome constructive engagement but only where it is genuinely directed at the benefit of the profession as a whole and the clients whom we represent.
Tell us what you think – will this deal affect you as a junior lawyer and how? What approach do you think the profession should be taking to cuts in legal aid? Please email: email@example.com. We will of course keep anything you say anonymous.