Legal aid lawyers form new group to oppose cuts

Topics: Civil justice,Criminal justice,Legal aid and access to justice,The Bar

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Groups representing legal aid lawyers have formed a new campaign group to oppose fresh cuts in funding.

The National Justice Committee comprises the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association, London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association, Legal Aid Practitioners Group, Justice Alliance, Criminal Bar Association and circuit leaders.

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The Law Society and the Bar Council said they would attend as observers.

The move builds on the action taken by hundreds of solicitors and barristers at the start of the month in protest against cuts to criminal legal aid, and comes ahead of the Ministry of Justice’s response to its ‘Next Steps’ consultation on legal aid, expected within weeks.

A statement announcing the formation of the alliance said last night: ‘This committee notes the devastating effects of legal aid cuts and restrictions in social welfare law, family law and immigration law.

‘This committee opposes all further legal aid cuts and proposals to weaken the ability of the ordinary citizen to challenge unlawful decision-making which will diminish our social fabric by reducing access to justice.’

The groups urged justice secretary Chris Grayling to engage with them before implementing further ‘unnecessary and counter-productive’ cuts.

‘We can provide evidence to prove that the cuts do not equal savings and that the savings sought can be achieved without cuts,’ the committee said.

It is understood that one of the first items on the committee’s agenda is to fix a date for a full day of protest action, when lawyers will attend a ‘training day’ rather than court, following the half-day protest at the start of the month (pictured).

The action is expected to take place at the end of February.

A Law Society spokesperson said: 'We are continuing to have discussions with the organisers of this new group. For now, the Law Society will attend as an observer.'

Readers' comments (19)

  • The Law Society has spent a long time acting merely as an observer...

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  • In the old days you might have expected the Law Society to represent solicitors...crazy talk I know.

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  • So the Law society leads from behind

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  • Good stuff. It's nice to see solicitors and barristers working together so closely. And it's nice to see that the Law Society seem to have gotten the message; resistance is futile.

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  • The need to be professional and promote professionalism as a public good, has never been more important than it is now.

    There appears to be on the part of the Government a systematic, but ill informed dismantling of the institutions and mechanisms, which have carefully evolved in this country over the centuries, to provide justice to its citizens both civil and criminal.

    Solicitors increase the "trust quotient" of society as evidenced for instance by their huge contribution towards UK invisible earnings. Therefore the continual interference with, and the heavy regulation of, solicitors are misconceived, and represent an unacceptable intrusion on the independence of the profession.It is well understood elsewhere around the world, that justice is at the core of human development, and access to an independent legal profession is enshrined in the UN Charter.

    I would hope therefore that following its defeat at the SGM, and having regard to its founding principles as enshrined in its Charters, the Law Society will appreciate, that its past strategies have resulted in a diminution of the standing of the profession with the public at large.

    The Law Society should now support access to justice in a more robust way, by moving from the sidelines and endorsing the new group, the announcement of which has provided a well needed boost to solicitors abused by successive governments in recent years.

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  • Where's the money going to come from?

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  • One day in February is not enough.

    We need to withdraw from the courts for a week to force this government to negotiate.

    As a profession we have enormous latent power. We have a duty to save the legal aid system. We otherwise are dragged back to conditions pre-WW2.

    The coalition have no mandate for these cuts and we should have no compunction about defending our interests and those of our clients: they happen to coincide.

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  • Is the new group going to put forward qualified members to stand for Council members of the Law Society?. As the present Council suffered a vote of no confidence should the new group call upon them to resign so elections can taker place?

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  • Hi Shaun, I don't know, but I suspect the previous vote was one of no confidence in the president and chief exec. That certainly was how one proposition began. And specifically for their failure to represent criminal lawyers more forcefully on criminal legal aid.

    Whilst I am on the other side of the fence on that issue, a new council might be prevailed upon to lean just a little, but preferably a lot, on SRA on the PII issue.

    It's a good idea, despite the naysayers who will oppose you every step of the way so don't let the blighters get you down!. They will, of course, not identify themselves and I suspect that they may well be closer to the LS than they don't say.

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  • Haven't the Law Society observed enough? This is crazy, there was a vote of no confidence, when will they do something about that. We need urgent action otherwise we are all at risk of being struck of due to bankruptcy.

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