News

Bar chief bellows a resounding ‘no’ to legal aid strike call

By on

Tony Cross QC triggers outrage as he calls for more time to negotiate with ministers

lead

Alexis Tsipras he ain’t. That’s the verdict of much of the criminal bar on Tony Cross QC, the hard-pressed and increasingly embattled leader of the Criminal Bar Association.

Cross triggered wrath across much of the crime specialist side of the profession yesterday when — far from issuing a Tsipras-style cry of defiance — the silk announced that in the current ballot he would vote against strike action over proposed legal aid cuts.

Explaining his decision, Cross said striking in support of solicitors fighting a second tranche of cuts would be premature.

Up until last week when some began ‘unofficial’ action,” wrote Cross, “all our energy was devoted to negotiating with government. I simply do not understand how anyone can form the view that we should move to action before negotiations had broken down. And even then (even if we had an unsympathetic Lord Chancellor) we would still have to assess the risk involved of action.

And the silk maintained that his view had support, not least from some specialist law firms.

There are some in our sister profession who have assessed these risks,” he claimed. “They have realised that the time is not right for action. They have carried out a risk assessment. They have realised that their precarious financial positions will not allow for a protracted industrial dispute.

Cross continued:

They realise that there is a danger here of the financially weak being destroyed and that the stronger bigger firms — those who can survive will inherit the fruit of their labour. We should be careful to consider the legal landscape post resolution of this dispute — who will survive and what will their attitude be to the Bar?

But Cross’s real politik stance was ridiculed by many lawyers on social media, including some from the CBA hierarchy itself. CBA committee member and Mansfield Chambers barrister Stephen Knight clearly wasn’t backing his chairman.

While 36 Bedford Row barrister Rebecca Herbert pointed out that many solicitors were backing strike action.

Indeed, one crime specialist solicitor, Ben Hibbert from Hull-based law firm John Robinson & Co, lent credence to that view in a swipe at Cross.

While this tweeter suggested that Cross’s position would be cause Justice Secretary Michael Gove to raise a glass.

Read the CBA chairman’s message in full below:

CBA – Monday Message