Criminal barristers will stay away from court on 6 January in protest over cuts to criminal legal aid, the Criminal Bar Association has confirmed.

In his weekly email to members, CBA chairman Nigel Lithman QC (pictured) said: ‘Some members of the CBA have decided that they will no longer be available/will not work during the morning of the 6 January; but will be available to attend court from 2pm only on that day.  

‘Those of you who want to show your support will decide for yourselves whether you too will choose to work for the first half of that day or only as from 2pm,’ Lithman told his members. Both prosecution and defence counsel, he said, should decide whether to support the action.

Lithman said the action is a ‘wholly reasonable and proportionate response to the conduct of the [Ministry of Justice]', which seeks to cut fees in very high costs cases by 30% as well as impose further cuts on other criminal legal aid rates.

Lithman said he had informed the lord chief justice, the recorder of London, the common serjeant and the director of public prosecutions. He expressed hope that judges will be ‘sympathetic’ to applications for a 2pm start.
Lithman said the half-day’s ‘non-attendance’ on the first day of term ‘will demonstrate the importance of the role played by criminal advocates in the efficient disposal of criminal cases. Put another way, it will give a glimpse of the future if our profession is dismantled into non-existence’, said Lithman.

The CBA’s former chair told the Criminal Law Solicitors Association conference last month that the day of action could be the first of many.

A Law Society spokesperson said: ‘Barristers have taken their decision but for many solicitors, with responsibilities for their firms and their employees, the situation is very different. Is it the best strategy for achieving change? We continue to impress upon the MoJ the damage that cuts to legal aid will undoubtedly cause.’