“No other sector has borne such brutal cuts:” Criminal bar backs more strikes over legal aid reform

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.

See also

Legal aid cuts: the timeline

19 Nov 09: Legal aid lawyers earn less than sewage workers, claims Law Soc

16 Jul 10: Legal aid training grants falls victim of Government cuts

24 Feb 11: JLD, YLAL slam proposed cuts to legal aid

23 Jun 11: Legal aid cuts given green light

30 Nov 12: Manchester law students work to fill legal aid hole                 

11 Mar 13: Exeter law students march for legal aid

2 Apr 13: Student legal advice centre reports rise in cases as legal aid cuts take hold

3 May 13: Charter Chambers: cuts to destroy the whole notion of pupillage

23 Sep 13: Tooks Chambers blames legal aid cuts as it begins dissolution

15 Oct 13: Student family law clinic substitute for London legal aid

1 Nov 13: Baroness Hale on legal aid cuts: “There will be human rights issues”

26 Nov 13: Criminal Bar will strike if legal aid cut again

17 Dec 13: Law Society members debate no confidence in leadership following cuts

6 Jan 214: Barristers stage mass protest at legal aid cuts

10 Jan 14: Opinion: No Legal Aid, No Justice 

24 Jan 14: Students plan nationwide action against legal aid cuts

28 Feb 14: Bar responds to legal aid consultation: “worst fears confirmed”

7 Mar 14: Barristers strike over legal aid cuts, solicitors call for leaders to resign

16 Apr 14: Dyers Chambers cancels pupillage, blaming legal aid cuts

17 Apr 14: Opinion: Students should not have to fill the justice gap

27 Feb 15: Law Society wins right to appeal against criminal legal aid ruling

25 Mar 15: A “devastating blow” for access to justice: Court of Appeal rejects Law Society challenge over legal aid contracts

13 Apr 15: Joanna Lumley and Simon Callow lend voices to cartoon where legal aid superheroes fight villainous Grayling

29 Apr 15: BPP launches legal aid scholarship in response to student’s lobbying

21 May 15: “No other sector has borne such brutal cuts:” Criminal bar backs more strikes over legal aid reform