Bar responds to Government legal aid consultation: “Our worst fears have been confirmed”

Barristers have responded to the Government’s response on its consultation on legal aid, which confirmed cuts to criminal legal aid fees of 17.5 per cent for solicitors, 6 per cent for barristers and 2 per cent for junior barristers and introduced a policy of tendering for duty solicitor slots at police stations.

The cuts to barristers’ fees come on top of an average reduction of 21 per cent in Crown Court fees since 2007, which the Bar Council says is a 37 per cent fall in real terms after allowing for inflation.

Chairman of the Bar Nicholas Lavender QC said: “We are bitterly disappointed that, despite a sustained campaign emphasising that these proposals are contrary to the public interest, the Government is pressing ahead with significant cuts to legal aid for advocacy in the Crown Court.

“These cuts are financially unnecessary, will cause significant damage to the justice system and to our international reputation for upholding the Rule of Law and will drive skilled and experienced advocates away from publicly-funded criminal work.”

He concluded: “Today, our worst fears have been confirmed. Across England and Wales, Criminal barristers, who work hard in the public interest, will be dismayed and demoralised. The quality of justice will suffer as a result, and the harm done may well be irreparable.”

A demonstration against the cuts has been organised for Friday 7 March, and is supported by bodies including the Justice Alliance and Criminal Bar Association.