Courts face disruption as barristers strike over cuts

Barristers are joining solicitors in protesting at legal aid cuts. Credit: PA

Criminal courts face disruption today as barristers join solicitors in striking over legal aid cuts.

Legal professions warned the action would have a detrimental impact on crown court services as barristers refuse to take on new cases.

Solicitors have been striking since July 1 when 8.75% cuts to legal aid fees were introduced, although their action will now only affect crown courts.

The Criminal Bar Association (CBA), which narrowly backed today's strike in a ballot two weeks ago, is due to meet tonight to discuss whether to continue the action beyond Monday.

Bill Waddington, chairman of the Criminal Law Solicitors' Association, warned their strike could continue "for a considerable period of time".

The Government said the "challenging" changes will put the profession "on a sustainable footing for the long term".

The legal aid system involves taxpayer-funded lawyers representing people facing court proceedings.

A CBA spokesman said: "The members of the CBA voted in July to take action against the latest cut in legal aid fees by adopting no returns and not taking instructions and it was recommended that the action starts on Monday, July 27.

"The CBA Executive is due to meet on Monday evening to discuss a change in the criminal solicitors' joint protocol which provides for solicitors resuming work in the magistrates courts and police stations."

Criminal law associations have said they are Credit: PA

Barristers will continue to work on cases they were assigned before today's action.

Mr Waddington said the solictors' action had already caused court delays and called on the Government to listen to their requests.

He apologised for the disruption being caused but said he hoped people would understand why the action needed to be taken.

Mr Waddington, chair of the CLSA: "From today and ongoing there will be delays in cases being dealt with at the crown court.

"We do hope the public understand what they may experience in future weeks is really an insight into how we say the system would be if the Government does not listen to the representations that are being made to it.

"We think that the footing on which this protocol is built is one that can run for a considerable period of time."

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: "The changes we are making to criminal legal aid are designed to deliver value for money to taxpayers and do not impact on the availability of high quality legal advice to those who need it most.

"Although we recognise that the transition will be challenging for lawyers, these changes will put the profession on a sustainable footing for the long term. We have already pledged that an independent review looking at the impact of the new arrangements will begin in July 2016."