Courts 'inoperable after walk-out'

South Wales Argus: Criminal Bar Association chair Nigel Lithman said the 'strike' had the backing of almost every chambers Criminal Bar Association chair Nigel Lithman said the 'strike' had the backing of almost every chambers

CRIMINAL courts across England and Wales will be "effectively inoperable" this morning, the man leading a walk-out by barristers over legal aid cuts predicted.

Criminal Bar Association chair Nigel Lithman said the "strike" had the backing of almost every chambers and said he expected "solid support" for the unprecedented action.

He accused Justice Secretary Chris Grayling of "manipulating" official figures to falsely portray lawyers doing criminal aid work as high-earning "fat cats".

The Government plans to cut fees as part of a bid to slash £220 million from the legal aid budget by 2018/19 - slashing them by as much as 30% in the longest and most complex cases.

The Ministry of Justice says it is vital to scale back the most expensive such scheme in the world and insists it will remain "very generous" even after the changes.

It criticised the action and highlighted figures showing 1,200 barristers judged to be working full time on taxpayer-funded criminal work received £100,000 each in fee income last year.

Six barristers picked up more than £500,000 each, it said.

But Mr Lithman said the same official statistics showed that - after allowing for VAT and other expenses - the average barrister involved in the work earned around £36,000.

The Bar Council calculated that it was lower still - around the £27,000 national average, he said, meaning the cuts would push people away from the vital work.

"There are simply going to be no people of any ability prepared to do criminal legal aid work," he said.

Protests are planned outside court buildings but Mr Lithman said those taking part in the action had made efforts to ensure there was "as little disruption as is proportionate" to cases.

His own case has been switched by the judge to the afternoon.

"Every head of chambers in the country said their barristers supported this and wanted to take part," he said.

"Courts in England and Wales will be effectively inoperable in the morning because of the size of this protest. There is solid support."

In a dig at the release of the earnings figures, he said he had been contacted by one barrister who was earning £13,680 in her second year of practice.

"You can put out the earnings of five to 10 people, but you can't run the justice system on the efforts of five to 10 people," he said.

"The protest on Monday is the first in the history of the criminal bar.

"That it is necessary in order to try and prevent the slide of the criminal justice system into chaos and the criminal bar into oblivion makes it a sad day."

The Bar Standards Board has warned that any barristers who stay away from court will almost certainly be in breach of their professional code of conduct with "very serious consequences".

It urged the CBA to call off the action which it said could harm the interests of clients, others involved in a case and public confidence in the administration of justice.

But Mr Lithman said it would be "invidious" if any lawyers were punished given the widespread strength of feeling and the efforts made to minimise disruption.

The reforms also include limits on prisoners' access to legal aid, a household disposable income threshold for criminal legal aid and reductions in the cost of fees for representation.

Former director of public prosecutions Lord Macd onald joined the condemnation of the cuts and accused Mr Grayling of "destroying something he doesn't really understand".

The Liberal Democrat peer said two MoJ ministers - Lib Dem Simon Hughes and Tory Lord Faulks - had expressed concerns and should have a "serious conversation" with Mr Garyling.

"These are people who are working extremely hard for low incomes and 30% cuts on top of that, in circumstances where the legal aid budget was underspent by £56 million last year, seems unreasonable," he said.

"I fear that Mr Grayling is in danger of destroying something that he doesn't fully understand which is a criminal justice system which is as good as any in the world, which is fair and which supports people who don't have money as well as people who do."

The protest was a "pretty dramatic" signal of the scale of concern, he suggested.

"These are not left-wing rebels, these are not natural rebels, these are people with families, with mortgages who have never done this before. I think it is a fair assumption they have been driven to it.

"I think the Government may not yet have fully understood the degree of concern, anger and indeed fear at the criminal bar and I hope that Lord Faulks and Simon Hughes will try and bring that home."

Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said: "No one wants to see disruption in our courts but this unprecedented action shows how relations between the legal profession and David Cameron's Government have collapsed as a result of policies which could restrict access to our courts to only those who can afford it.

"The Lord Chancellor swears an oath to uphold the law of the land, so for Chris Grayling to have lost the confidence of the legal community he relies on to deliver on this oath is extremely worrying."

An MoJ spokesman said: "We entirely agree lawyers should be paid fairly for their work, and believe our proposals do just that.

"We also agree legal aid is a vital part of our justice system - that's why we have to find efficiencies to ensure it remains sustainable and available to those most in need of a lawyer.

"Agencies involved in the criminal justice system will take steps to minimise any upset court disruption could cause for victims and witnesses involved in trials."

Comments (11)

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9:12am Mon 6 Jan 14

scraptheWAG says...

oh no the poor barristers that nasty tory party again - I think legal aid trebled under the last government.

these bunch of parasites have ridden the gravy train long enough !!
oh no the poor barristers that nasty tory party again - I think legal aid trebled under the last government. these bunch of parasites have ridden the gravy train long enough !! scraptheWAG
  • Score: 12

10:14am Mon 6 Jan 14

davidcp says...

Confused by the signage - I thought Legal Aid HELPED keep murderers and rapists on the street? Prosecutions aren't paid for by Legal Aid.

(The guilty but unproved ones that the charities keep telling us exist.)
Confused by the signage - I thought Legal Aid HELPED keep murderers and rapists on the street? Prosecutions aren't paid for by Legal Aid. (The guilty but unproved ones that the charities keep telling us exist.) davidcp
  • Score: 4

10:44am Mon 6 Jan 14

Llanmartinangel says...

I'm happy to step in and offer ludicrous excuses for career criminal low-lifes for the day if it'll help.
I'm happy to step in and offer ludicrous excuses for career criminal low-lifes for the day if it'll help. Llanmartinangel
  • Score: 6

11:42am Mon 6 Jan 14

Ralphbutner says...

Many of the comments seem to be made by the mostly uneducated illiterate fools that do not understand what both Justice and access to it means for everyone. Also that in this country as opposed to China , Saudi, Russia etc we believe in innocent until proved guilty I would love to see some of these posters complete a legal education as there understanding of the law in this country beggars belief good luck when you get wrongfully accused of a wrongdoing...
Many of the comments seem to be made by the mostly uneducated illiterate fools that do not understand what both Justice and access to it means for everyone. Also that in this country as opposed to China , Saudi, Russia etc we believe in innocent until proved guilty I would love to see some of these posters complete a legal education as there understanding of the law in this country beggars belief good luck when you get wrongfully accused of a wrongdoing... Ralphbutner
  • Score: -3

12:03pm Mon 6 Jan 14

Llanmartinangel says...

Ralphbutner wrote:
Many of the comments seem to be made by the mostly uneducated illiterate fools that do not understand what both Justice and access to it means for everyone. Also that in this country as opposed to China , Saudi, Russia etc we believe in innocent until proved guilty I would love to see some of these posters complete a legal education as there understanding of the law in this country beggars belief good luck when you get wrongfully accused of a wrongdoing...
It may be that people tire of the legal brains who convince the likes of Ian Huntley, and the murderers of April Jones and Lee Rigby that an expensive trial on tax payer funds is in anyone's interests. You don't think they could of cynical profiteering at all?
[quote][p][bold]Ralphbutner[/bold] wrote: Many of the comments seem to be made by the mostly uneducated illiterate fools that do not understand what both Justice and access to it means for everyone. Also that in this country as opposed to China , Saudi, Russia etc we believe in innocent until proved guilty I would love to see some of these posters complete a legal education as there understanding of the law in this country beggars belief good luck when you get wrongfully accused of a wrongdoing...[/p][/quote]It may be that people tire of the legal brains who convince the likes of Ian Huntley, and the murderers of April Jones and Lee Rigby that an expensive trial on tax payer funds is in anyone's interests. You don't think they could of cynical profiteering at all? Llanmartinangel
  • Score: 7

12:08pm Mon 6 Jan 14

Ollie254 says...

I've never seen a solicitor without a nice new top of the range car and big house , all that on 27k I don't think so. The same people are seen in courts time and time again gaining free legal aid. The solicitors don't mind, the first thing they do is get the client to fill out a legal aid form and the taxpayer funded cycle continues. It could be argued that unlimited legal aid encourages criminality as offenders can commit crime knowing that if caught, and if the CPS takes the case to court, all they have to do is stay quiet and demand a brief. It's a viscous circle and needs to be stopped.
I've never seen a solicitor without a nice new top of the range car and big house , all that on 27k I don't think so. The same people are seen in courts time and time again gaining free legal aid. The solicitors don't mind, the first thing they do is get the client to fill out a legal aid form and the taxpayer funded cycle continues. It could be argued that unlimited legal aid encourages criminality as offenders can commit crime knowing that if caught, and if the CPS takes the case to court, all they have to do is stay quiet and demand a brief. It's a viscous circle and needs to be stopped. Ollie254
  • Score: 7

12:13pm Mon 6 Jan 14

mikeyd says...

I think China, Saudi and Russia got the right idea of treating criminals and inmates. What did it cost the tax payer to prosecute the Yorkshire Ripper? Now how much a week does it cost to keep him?!! I'm sure Russia could could keep him in a Siberian prison for 50 Quid a week!
Economics I'm afraid! Now it's your turn!!
I think China, Saudi and Russia got the right idea of treating criminals and inmates. What did it cost the tax payer to prosecute the Yorkshire Ripper? Now how much a week does it cost to keep him?!! I'm sure Russia could could keep him in a Siberian prison for 50 Quid a week! Economics I'm afraid! Now it's your turn!! mikeyd
  • Score: 5

12:37pm Mon 6 Jan 14

Stevenboy says...

Llanmartinangel wrote:
Ralphbutner wrote:
Many of the comments seem to be made by the mostly uneducated illiterate fools that do not understand what both Justice and access to it means for everyone. Also that in this country as opposed to China , Saudi, Russia etc we believe in innocent until proved guilty I would love to see some of these posters complete a legal education as there understanding of the law in this country beggars belief good luck when you get wrongfully accused of a wrongdoing...
It may be that people tire of the legal brains who convince the likes of Ian Huntley, and the murderers of April Jones and Lee Rigby that an expensive trial on tax payer funds is in anyone's interests. You don't think they could of cynical profiteering at all?
True. And the blood-sucking human rights free-loaders who kept dragging Hamza and Qatada through every court in existence never made a penny piece for their 'creativity' I'm sure. This is a gravy train that needs crushing big time.
[quote][p][bold]Llanmartinangel[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Ralphbutner[/bold] wrote: Many of the comments seem to be made by the mostly uneducated illiterate fools that do not understand what both Justice and access to it means for everyone. Also that in this country as opposed to China , Saudi, Russia etc we believe in innocent until proved guilty I would love to see some of these posters complete a legal education as there understanding of the law in this country beggars belief good luck when you get wrongfully accused of a wrongdoing...[/p][/quote]It may be that people tire of the legal brains who convince the likes of Ian Huntley, and the murderers of April Jones and Lee Rigby that an expensive trial on tax payer funds is in anyone's interests. You don't think they could of cynical profiteering at all?[/p][/quote]True. And the blood-sucking human rights free-loaders who kept dragging Hamza and Qatada through every court in existence never made a penny piece for their 'creativity' I'm sure. This is a gravy train that needs crushing big time. Stevenboy
  • Score: 8

12:45pm Mon 6 Jan 14

welshmen says...

WE are ALL in it together, you Barristers have never been in anything, bar loads of taxpayers legal aid cash, man up, feel what it's like for ordinary people....you charge on average £90.00 + Vat an hour for a Trainee Solicitor, time to lower your fee's, we have in the Building Industry....Immigrat
ion affects everything....perhap
s you wont advertise for Asylum Seekers and Illegal Immigrants to fight for them to stay here on the same gravy train as you enjoy....
WE are ALL in it together, you Barristers have never been in anything, bar loads of taxpayers legal aid cash, man up, feel what it's like for ordinary people....you charge on average £90.00 + Vat an hour for a Trainee Solicitor, time to lower your fee's, we have in the Building Industry....Immigrat ion affects everything....perhap s you wont advertise for Asylum Seekers and Illegal Immigrants to fight for them to stay here on the same gravy train as you enjoy.... welshmen
  • Score: 5

1:11pm Mon 6 Jan 14

blackandamber says...

Ralphbutner wrote:
Many of the comments seem to be made by the mostly uneducated illiterate fools that do not understand what both Justice and access to it means for everyone. Also that in this country as opposed to China , Saudi, Russia etc we believe in innocent until proved guilty I would love to see some of these posters complete a legal education as there understanding of the law in this country beggars belief good luck when you get wrongfully accused of a wrongdoing...
Unfortunately that's all we get today is the the law. We seldom if ever get justice.
[quote][p][bold]Ralphbutner[/bold] wrote: Many of the comments seem to be made by the mostly uneducated illiterate fools that do not understand what both Justice and access to it means for everyone. Also that in this country as opposed to China , Saudi, Russia etc we believe in innocent until proved guilty I would love to see some of these posters complete a legal education as there understanding of the law in this country beggars belief good luck when you get wrongfully accused of a wrongdoing...[/p][/quote]Unfortunately that's all we get today is the the law. We seldom if ever get justice. blackandamber
  • Score: 7

7:31pm Mon 6 Jan 14

scraptheWAG says...

having attended court on a driving matter it was like the cast of shameless feet up on the seats shouting play fighting and having a right old laugh , i made small talk with the security guard who said its the same people here every week with the same solicitors some of these scum and that's what they are must be racking up hundreds of thousands in legal aid a solicitors dream come true.
having attended court on a driving matter it was like the cast of shameless feet up on the seats shouting play fighting and having a right old laugh , i made small talk with the security guard who said its the same people here every week with the same solicitors some of these scum and that's what they are must be racking up hundreds of thousands in legal aid a solicitors dream come true. scraptheWAG
  • Score: 3

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