Criminal barristers have voted by a majority of two to one to accept the fee deal agreed with the Ministry of Justice and to suspend direct action in protest over legal aid cuts.
Fewer than half of the Criminal Bar Association’s (CBA’s) 4,000 members voted in the ballot that closed last night.
Members were asked: ‘Do you wish to continue no returns and days of action until all the cuts and reductions in solicitors contracts are abandoned?’
Of the 1,878 who responded, 1,249 (67%) voted against continued action, while 629 (33%) voted in favour.
Accordingly, the deal between the association and MoJ postponing the 6% graduated fee cuts and suspension of further action stands.
The vote was met with anger by many lawyers on Twitter, who said barristers had abandoned their principles and left solicitors to continue the fight. Nicola Hill, president of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association (LCCSA), said it was 'disappointing’ that the bar had chosen to accept the deal.
However she said the result showed that many barristers are still supporting the solicitors' position. 'We look forward to working with them in the future.’
She said solicitors and justice campaigners will continue their 'heartfelt opposition’ to the justice secretary’s mission to 'bulldoze his way through 800 years of legal history’.
The LCCSA together with the Criminal Law Solicitors Association stepped up protest action this week, taking the first steps towards a legal challenge to the ministry’s decision to go ahead with the cuts.
Many members have also refused to take new Crown court cases, in a move designed to disrupt serious cases.
'The opposition is entering a new, more formal and resolute stage.’
In a message to members this morning, CBA chair Nigel Lithman QC called for unity.
'Whilst a mandate was given for backing the agreement to shelve the cuts and accepting the “deal” offered by government, a third of those voting felt obvious misgivings about how the bar would be impacted upon by cuts and dual contracts being imposed on solicitors. Their views will not be ignored.'
Lithman also voiced a hope to 're-engage’ with solicitors and hold constructive talks with them.
A Law Society spokesperson said: 'The Law Society does not regard it as appropriate to comment upon the affairs of other professional/representative bodies.'