Lord chancellor Michael Gove met representatives from the largest criminal legal aid firms today as a nationwide boycott of legal aid work under a second 8.75% fee cut continued.
Tuckers senior partner Franklin Sinclair, Bhatia Best Solicitors managing director Ash Bhatia and Karen Todner, managing director of Kaim Todner Solicitors, representing the Big Firms Group whose 37 members carry out around 25% of criminal legal aid work, met Gove and legal aid minister Shailesh Vara.
The group said in a statement that Gove ‘engaged fully with us in our case against the cut and listened to us carefully. He said the lines of communication remain open. It was no surprise that he gave no indication that he would reverse the cut at this stage’.
However, Sinclair told the Gazette that Gove said he did not like ‘strike’ action and was troubled by what was happening across the country. Franklin said Gove was ‘concerned about the way the criminal justice system was heading at the moment’.
The Criminal Bar Association is currently balloting members on whether they want to go back to a ‘no returns’ policy and refuse new work with a representation order dated from 1 July, when the latest cut came into effect. The ballot closes at 4pm on Tuesday.
Sinclair said: ‘If the bar supports us next week then I think [Gove] is going to find himself in a very difficult and serious position. He will have no allies.’
In today’s developments, it was reported on social media that a child abduction case was adjourned at Isleworth Crown Court due to the defendant being unrepresented.
Meanwhile, former Criminal Bar Association chair Michael Turner QC announced he would be voting for action in the association's ballot.
* Pictured is a protest outside Medway Megistrates' Court