Criminal Barristers End Boycott of Legal Aid Work
The result of a ballot organised by the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) that has taken place over the weekend has confirmed that criminal barristers have voted by a narrow margin to accept the government’s offer of £15m in justice investment. Prior to this, criminal barristers had been subjected to a prolonged dispute surrounding budget cuts to which brought the boycott to ahead; with over 100 chambers refusing to take on new legal aid work under the advocates graduated fee scheme since April 1st.
The chair of the CBA, Angela QC has commented “whilst the majority wishes to accept the proposal it cannot be said that the anger and disillusionment have gone away. Indeed, it is exceptionally strong. The Criminal Bar is not going to be quiet.’’
The Criminal Bar Association of England and Wales postponed the implementation of a “no returns” policy awaiting today’s result; however, this will consequently, not proceed. Preventing what the law society gazette reports as “potentially throwing the court system into chaos.’’
What is now to be expected is the enactment of The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) offer which includes the following:
• An extra £8m for fraud, drug and child sex cases that lose out under the new fee scheme;
• A 1% increase in advocacy payments from April 2019 (£2.5m);
• Further funding of approximately £4.5m, more for juniors
However, many remain torn on the result as from the total of 3,038 barristers who voted in the proposals, 1,566 voted to accept and a close 1,472 voted against.
Max Walters of the Law Society Gazette comments on the prosperous nature of this result and the effect it may have in relation to the litigators’ graduated fee scheme (LDFS) ahead of a High Court judicial review hearing this summer. He Quotes Law Society president Joe Egan “We hope the MoJ will now withdraw their opposition to the Law Society’s judicial review for the LGFS scheme cuts. We look forward to a similar announcement in relation to the work carried out by solicitors, including the withdrawal of the most recent pages of prosecution evidence (PPE) cut.’’
Angela Qc concluded with the following statement: “This outcome is neither a defeat nor a victory. The Criminal Bar has faced degradation and despair and it still does. This is a step forward. We must all ensure we do not take any more steps back.’’