With the proposed strike action in respect of criminal legal aid reforms seemingly an agreed and positive form of protest, it saddens me that similar steps were not taken in advance of the cuts made to civil legal aid.
Notwithstanding the unfortunate fact that the civil cuts have already been imposed, why not hold unified strike action, with both civil and criminal practitioners taking part? The reality is that although these practitioners may practise very different areas of the law, in many small to medium-sized firms such departments work side by side. These departments often share clients who are experiencing both civil and criminal difficulties, and ultimately both departments share responsibility for generating income for the firm, enabling it to continue providing high-quality legal services.
I wonder if it was a deliberate ploy on the part of the government to deal with civil and criminal cutbacks separately, knowing that the legal profession has a tendency to fragment rather than join forces in times of trouble.
The proposed criminal legal aid cutbacks will have a devastating effect on our justice system. If we do not act now, access to justice will become a thing of the past. Quality legal representation will only be available to those who can afford it. This is a fundamental issue which we should all be protesting about.
As a family law solicitor, I shall be lending my full support to the strike action proposed in respect of the criminal legal aid cutbacks. I hope that other civil practitioners will do likewise.
Lynne Isaac, Virgo Consultancy Services, Barry