Merseyside lawyers to refuse work in opposition to legal aid cuts

Barristers and solicitors are to refuse to take legal aid work under the new reduced rates that will take effect on 1 July.

Last week the Criminal Bar Association decided not to take direct action to oppose the cuts; however, after a meeting involving over 100 barristers and solicitors, Merseyside barristers and solicitors voted in favour of action.

Lawyers are angry that legal aid fees for criminal solicitors will be cut by 8.75 per cent.

In a statement, Zoe Gascoyne, the chair of Liverpool Law Society Criminal Practice Committee, and Daniel Travers of Exchange Chambers said: “The room was unanimous that the introduction of 8.75 per cent cuts to solicitors’ fees is untenable.”

”If the 1 July cut is to be implemented then solicitors will have sustained a 17.5 per cent cut over a 15 month period in a profession that has not seen an increase to rates in over 20 years.

”The message being delivered by individual firms was that they had made an assessment of the cuts that are to be introduced on 1 July 2015 and in January 2016 and that they will not undertake work at this rate. The Bar confirmed that they would not be prepared to undertake any work on any case with a Rep Order dated on or after Wednesday 1 July in recognition of the damage that these cuts will have upon the Independent Bar.”

Referencing Lord Chancellor Michael Gove’s speech this week in which he spoke of a “creaking court system”, the statement added: “We are not resistant to new ideas; however we simply cannot understand how the Lord Chancellor envisages reforming a system in which he is cutting beyond all reasonable levels, the fees, of the very people who are essential for delivery and implementation.”