December 21 2014 Latest news:
Monday, January 6, 2014
Cases at crown courts across England and Wales – including Ipswich – are expected to be disrupted today during the first ever strike of barristers.
They are expected to refuse to take part in morning sessions at Crown Courts in a protest at government plans to cut legal aid funding.
Barrister Stephen Dyble who appears regularly in Ipswich said: “In the past two years the Government has driven through pay cuts of 40%. In February 2014 a further 10% cut is due to be implemented.”
Nigel Lithman, QC, chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, said: “A line has to be drawn in the sand before it’s too late. The cuts pose the most serious threat to the British legal system in more than 400 years.”
He added: “The government says it is tough on crime, but is stripping the criminal justice system of anyone able to adequately prosecute serious criminals or defend those falsely accused.
“We merely seek a pay freeze. What could be more reasonable than that? I have offered to engage with the Lord Chancellor as to how to make savings across the system.”
The strike comes as the government tries to cut down on its Legal Aid bills – these bills can be very high, especially for those accused of the most serious crimes.
A Freedom of Information request revealed that the Legal Aid bill for Ipswich serial killer Steve Wright was more than £444,000 during his trial at the start of 2008.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “At around £2 billion a year, we have one of the most expensive legal aid systems in the world. Just like many hard-pressed families and businesses – we have no choice but to make savings. “Any disruption to court business is unnecessary, and lawyers choosing to do so inconvenience their clients and hard-working taxpayers.”
Barristers taking part in the walkout will be available to appear in court from 2pm.