Criminal bar chiefs leading court walkouts next week in response to the government's controversial legal aid reform package have sought to reassure lawyers worried about wasted costs and disciplinary proceedings.

Hundreds of placard-bearing lawyers are expected to gather outside the Old Bailey and Crown courts in Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Bristol and Cardiff on Monday for the first of an escalating number of ‘days of action’ in response to the government’s controversial legal aid reform package.

However, they were alarmed to discover that the lord chief justice issued guidance to judges stating that all cases where there is non-attendance should be referred to the senior presiding judge’s office to consider whether to involve the Bar Standards Board. Dozens of QCs accused the lord chief of 'intimidating' lawyers with his warning.

Today, the Criminal Bar Association said any risk of professional misconduct proceedings or wasted costs orders can be ‘effectively mitigated’ by applying the association’s ‘days of action’ guidance.

Members were reminded that there is cover under the bar mutual policy for disciplinary proceedings where there is an actual or potential connected claim – in this instance, wasted costs. The CBA silks panel, which comprises 50 QCs, is also on hand to offer advice and support, and represent anyone referred to the BSB for free if needed.

‘A highly experienced team of specialist civil lawyers are also working with the CBA to provide expert support, in the event that it is needed, to fight any potential referrals or disciplinary charges,’ the association added.

‘However, by continuing to exercise sound professional judgement, as we know that you are from the nature of the enquiries you are sending to us, and maintaining professional dialogues with all courts and your clients in relation to all of the cases in which you are instructed, you can continue to effectively minimise the risk of a referral taking place when days of action begin on Monday.’

Solicitors are also expected to join picket lines across the country on Monday. The Law Society has issued updated guidance for cases affected by the criminal bar’s action.


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