Lawyers explain motivation for Hertfordshire court walkout
- Credit: Archant
Lawyers from Comet country joined thousands across the UK by staging a walkout yesterday (Monday) in a dispute over fees.
Legal aid costs taxpayers about £2 billion every year and the Government want to cut £220 million out of this budget by reducing legal aid fees by 18% in most cases and 30% in complex high court cases.
However, the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) disputes these figures and claim the cuts are much higher in real terms. They argue this will cause the quality of legal representation to fall as the best lawyers either work exclusively privately or leave the profession all together.
Kerim Fuad QC, chairman of the Hertfordshire & Bedfordshire Bar Mess, led around 30 lawyers in a walkout outside St Albans Crown Court, where most serious cases from the area are heard, between 8.30am and 2pm yesterday.
He said: “The public is being totally misinformed by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling because in reality this is a real terms cut (to lawyers working on legal aid) of at least 41% minimum.
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“About 70% of barristers earn the average national average wage of £27,000, after you take away all their overheads, which isn’t a massive salary if you consider all the hours they have to do.
“People have a right to be properly represented and defended in a court of law and this cut would damage that resulting in the public losing out.”
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Sarah Forshaw QC, leader of South Eastern Circuit which represents barristers practicing in the region, said the CBA had been trying to offering a constructive dialogue with the Government for months and have resorted to the walkout because they have been ignored.
She said: “This issue is bigger than today because the whole justice system of this country, which has been the envy of the world for centuries, is at stake.”
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We entirely agree lawyers should be paid fairly for their work, and believe our proposals do just that. We also agree legal aid is a vital part of our justice system – that’s why we have to find efficiencies to ensure it remains sustainable and available to those most in need of a lawyer.
“Agencies involved in the criminal justice system will take steps to minimise any upset court disruption could cause for victims and witnesses involved in trials.”
• If you live in our area and took part in yesterday’s walkout email firstname.lastname@example.org