Criminal barristers are threatening to go on strike again, in protest against the goverment’s cuts to legal aid.
Members of the Criminal Bar Association voted overwhelmingly in favour of direct action with 1,328 out of 1,385 – or 96 per cent – in favour of action and only 57 voting against in a CBA survey.
The CBA, which has a membership of about 4,000, says this is “a very high turnout” for such a survey.
One of the key issues that barristers are concerned about is the proposed implementation of the Duty Provider Scheme (DPS), also known as the ‘two-tier contract’ scheme. They believe that proposed cuts and changes could result in work that has traditionally been done by barristers being done by solicitors instead.
The CBA’s leadership believe the changes “will destroy the quality of legal representation within the Criminal Justice System. The most able and committed young lawyers will have no future, and the independent bar will collapse.”
CBA chairman Tony Cross QC, said: “The response for such a survey was unprecedented and 96 per cent of those who responded have urged the CBA to take action to press the Government to think again.
“The proposed changes have no sensible economic foundation and will lead to irreversible damage to the Criminal Justice System. The proposed scheme will reduce competition, stifle innovation and paralyse the market as it becomes closed to new entrants.”
“Spending on legal aid has already dropped by one third since 2009/10, meeting government targets several years ahead of schedule. No other sector of Government spending has borne such brutal cuts. There is simply no room or need for more.”
“We remain committed to constructive dialogue with the Government to ensure that our country has a Criminal Justice System that is fit for the 21st Century.
”No barrister wishes to withhold his or her labour. It is a measure of the extreme nature of our concern that so many of our members are contemplating such action.”
Criminal barristers have already taken strike action over legal aid cuts in 2014.
Legal aid cuts: the timeline
24 Feb 11: JLD, YLAL slam proposed cuts to legal aid
23 Jun 11: Legal aid cuts given green light
11 Mar 13: Exeter law students march for legal aid
10 Jan 14: Opinion: No Legal Aid, No Justice
17 Apr 14: Opinion: Students should not have to fill the justice gap