Criminal solicitors who met today to discuss further direct action in protest over legal aid reforms failed to reach agreement on refusing to accept new cases after the first tranche of cuts is implemented tomorrow.
Two further ‘days of action’ are planned, however.
At a meeting in Manchester this afternoon organised by the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association and the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association, there was no vote on whether firms should refuse all new work at the police station and magistrates’ courts.
It was felt there was too little time to organise such radical and widespread action.
However, the meeting did vote for ‘days of action’ on 31 March and 1 April, with escalated action to follow, including non-attendance at police stations.
The meeting agreed the following resolutions:
'We maintain our total opposition to the cuts and reserve the right to consider in future whether to accept these cuts that have recently been imposed.’
'We will continue to work at the reduced rates under duress and mindful of our continuing obligations to our staff and our clients.’
In the meantime, practitioners agreed to do new work under protest and to ‘work to rule’, which involves being ‘ultra-compliant’ with the Criminal Procedure Rules and withdrawing ‘goodwill’.
The first 8.75% of the 17.5% fee cut for solicitors will be implemented tomorrow as part of reforms aimed at saving £220m from the legal aid budget.