Criminal defence solicitors could go down the same route as colleagues at the bar and stage court walkouts over legal aid funding, the Gazette has learned.
Dozens of solicitors are already demonstrating their dissatisfaction over the government’s proposed £135m reform package by refusing to take on poorly paid work, beginning with burglary cases. The scope of refusals could soon expand to assault on emergency workers, harassment and stalking.
Speaking to the Gazette outside the Old Bailey on the criminal bar’s first ‘day of action’ about what next for solicitors’ own action, London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association president Hesham Puri said some members were talking about walkouts.
The Law Society and practitioner groups cannot call for solicitors to take collective action as doing so could breach competition law.
The day after the criminal bar began ‘no returns’ action in April, the Solicitors Regulation Authority reminded solicitors of their duties under the regulator’s code of conduct and principles.
‘Although you have a duty to act in your client’s best interests, you also have a duty to uphold the constitutional principle of the rule of law and the proper administration of justice and that would include making every effort to ensure court hearings take place when tabled, unless adjourned with the agreement of the court,’ the SRA said.
Several solicitors expressed solidarity with the criminal bar on the first 'days of action' this week.
Former LCCSA president Kerry Hudson told a huge crowd of lawyers outside the Old Bailey: 'We don't ask for much. We are criminal legal aid solicitors, not commercial solicitors. We work on minimum wage after we make a loss on the work that we do.
'Regardless of what you may read in the press, it's all rubbish. Listen to the people here today. We are the people on the frontline. What we tell you is the truth. We have nothing to gain and nothing to lose by telling the truth, it's the reality of every day we face. We are here putting our blood, sweat and tears intio this job because we care about what we do.'
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