More than 80% of voters in a Criminal Bar Association (CBA) poll supported the ‘day of action’, which starts next Monday and Tuesday along with a rejection of guidance on new cases.
Criminal attorneys have adopted a ‘no return’ policy in the heat of the debate over the future of Legal Aid funding, and have now advocated a dramatic escalation of industrial action.
If there is no resolution, the attorneys also plan to go out on July 4-6, July 11-14 and for the whole week starting Monday, July 18. From August, walks will resume on alternate weeks “with no end date,” the CBA said.
Jo Sidhu QC, president of CBA and vice president of Kirsty Brimelow QC said in a statement Monday morning: “Following unprecedented consultations with ordinary members and leaders of the Crime Bar, the vote comes open on June 11 has now ended. In just eight days, 2,055 of you voted. Participation in this second vote was even higher than that witnessed in the first poll in March, in which 1,908 votes were received over a two-week period.
“This exceptional commitment to the democratic process reflects the recognition among crime lawyers at all calling levels and across all Departments that what is at stake is the survival of a professional profession. The criminal justice system and the criminal justice system depend heavily on them.
“Without immediate action to stem the migration of crime lawyers from our ranks, the backlog that has crippled our courts will continue to cause suffering for victims and defendants, and the public will be betrayed.
“This second ballot reaffirms our reputation as a democratic and open association. Our members always respect the outcome of a free and fair voting process, whatever the outcome. Therefore, we will stick to the ballot. Our unity is our strength”.
Prominent lawyers’ protests are expected to take place outside six crown courts around the country next Monday, including the Old Bailey.
Lawyers say legal aid funding has fallen 43 per cent in real terms since 2004 and argue the government’s proposed reforms don’t go far enough or deliver changes fast enough.
“Throughout the past year, we have continued our regular cooperation with the Ministry of Justice, including a meeting with the State Deputy Minister of Justice on May 25,” said Mr.
He said “many efforts” had been made to convince the government to “respect” recommendations in an independent review of legal aid funding, increasing the minimum fee by 15% immediately.
“The government continues to insist that it will not shorten its timetable,” he said.
The CBA says the justice crisis is driving attorneys, especially junior crime attorneys, out of the system, hindering efforts to resolve the nearly 60,000 case backlog.