From 1 July 2015, thousands of criminal solicitors have refused to take on new legal aid cases, in protest against the government’s further cuts to fixed fees and proposed contract changes.
Criminal barristers have since voted to join this action. Already there are reports of police stations and courts struggling to cope since lawyers have withdrawn their services.The further cuts will force lawyers out of business unless they are willing to cut corners by using unqualified staff and doing the bare minimum of work.
This will likely lead to innocent people being found guilty, and victims of crime won’t receive justice.
Interested parties have repeatedly tried to engage with the government to explain why these cuts are unnecessary, and have highlighted where alternative savings could be made. Despite evidence in support of the lawyers’ concerns, politicians have refused to listen, which has led to this drastic and historic action being taken. Lawyers have decided they would rather go out of business now by refusing work, than serve their clients and the justice system poorly.
The Justice Alliance wholeheartedly supports this campaign led by criminal lawyers. Our members are concerned that the new rules will severely limit access to justice. This not only affects those accused of a crime, but also victims of crime, who are poorly served when defendants are unrepresented. Victims of crime could be cross examined by their potential abusers, and justice will not be done. Further, these government proposals will lead to greater costs overall such as an increased prison population, so tax payers will ultimately shoulder higher, not lower, costs.