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Meek surrender or clever tactic? No one quite knows as lawyers suspend 52 day legal aid strike

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Court boycott called off as “gesture of goodwill”

gove-grin

Solicitors and barristers have this morning suspended their 52 day action against further cuts to legal aid despite receiving no offer to settle the dispute — and nobody seems to be quite sure why.

The official line from the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association and London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association is that the move is a “gesture of goodwill” towards Lord Chancellor Michael Gove and his Ministry of Justice pals.

The bodies’ joint statement says that they made the move after having had “the opportunity to engage with the Ministry of Justice” and “provide ideas for long terms savings as a direct alternative to a cut in rates”. It continues:

Although no offer to settle the issue has yet been made, as a gesture of goodwill and recognising the importance of this engagement we firmly believe that the time is right to suspend the action with immediate effect. By doing so we hope the relationship which has now been established will continue into the future. There are many challenges ahead and the engagement to date is a sign that those challenges can be debated constructively in a receptive atmosphere.

The Criminal Bar Association (CBA) has backed the move, with its boss, Mark Fenhalls QC, reporting recent “productive dialogue with the MoJ” that has led him to conclude:

There is no reason why barristers should not accept any fresh instructions.

But many legal aid lawyers on Twitter are not taking these pronouncements at face value, indicating that the criminal lawyer professional bodies have decided to “roll over”. Among the dissatisfied is Simon Myerson QC, who indicated that the strike had hit cash-strapped junior barristers particularly hard — and the decision not to follow-though with it effectively made it pointless.

But others, such as the respected legal affairs commentator David Allen Green (who tweets as Jack of Kent), suggested that the decision was a “strategic” power play designed to strengthen lawyers’ position in their ongoing negotiations with the MoJ.

Green noted that the strike hadn’t been cancelled altogether, with legal aid lawyers now presumably able to use the threat of further action as they try to hammer out a deal.

However it all pans out, the news will come as a relief to the creaking justice system, which has been mired in chaos since the strike began on 1 July and gained traction when barristers joined in at the end of that month. The turmoil — which was unleashed in a bid to prevent criminal solicitor fees being slashed by a second 8.75 per cent reduction in 15 months — reached its zenith on 10 August when two defendants charged with murder reportedly appeared without representation at Sheffield Crown Court.

11 Comments

Quo Vadis

It is unsurprising that a profession skilled in argument thinks that it can simply persuade the Government to fund legal aid. Newsflash – the Government do not want access to justice. All of their policies are aimed at maintaining and expanding the power of those at the very top. The law protects everyone, and thus it must be destroyed. They know exactly what they are doing.

(8)(5)

Not Amused

Why would people rather believe conspiracy theories than engage with reason?

Yes. Let’s all believe that the Tories are solely acting to destroy access to justice. Because whether or not BIlly Gumping from Stoke gets represented by a silk or a solicitor at his armed robbery trial is a “threat to the power of those at the top”. The Tories are evil. The Tories are giant lizards. The Tories hate poor people (despite often being or having been them). The Tories eat babies.

Let’s ignore the £2 billion legal aid figure. Let’s ignore the fact that several QCs or Partners in law firms earn multiples of the prime minister’s salary while baby lawyers get paid peanuts. Let’s ignore the fact that for 20 years the legal aid lawyers have failed to engage with any government to produce effective cuts. Let’s ignore the fact that those labour voting lawyers refused to oppose the successive cuts by a Labour government. Let’s ignore the massive deficit and the debt and the fact that the NHS has to be ring fenced because the people have randomly decided it’s Princess Diana and that cuts will have to come from other (smaller) budgets. Let’s ignore the entire left wing who go around telling children money grows on trees (or can be printed to pay for things) and who get red faced and physically threatening if anyone dares to contradict their utter madness.

Yes. Let’s. Let’s just blame the Tories.

The truth isn’t easy. The truth is hard and exceedingly boring. The truth is so dull that it is much easier to just lie.

(17)(14)

Anonymous

It’s certainly not (exclusively) the Tories by any means – tosser Blair started it all (and the dreadful ‘higher rights’ nonsense started early 80s).
But it is certainly a consistent political attack going back some way. We have had review after review ad nauseum – so many reviews it’s a joke.
As a matter of pride and principal we should have kept this action up for 6 months at least.
I am dismayed and angered that this decision has been taken without any consultation and out of the blue.
I see it as MAJOR strategic mistake.
I’m afraid it’s now closing time at the Last Chance Saloon.
Drink up.

(2)(0)

Billy Gumping

I dun me own talking an’ got off of it.

(9)(0)

Anonymous

What were you charged with: Eloquence ?

(1)(1)

Satin Cut

Oh dear. You see it’s like this, when one has the Government in a headlock one shouldn’t swap positions.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Pathetic inexplicable capitulation.
It’s worse than that, we’re dead Jim.

(2)(0)

Meek surrender or clever tactic?

Meek surrender.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Fenhalls set to be just as disappointing as TC.

(0)(0)

retiredbrief

Industrial action cannot work. Legal aid lawyers depend on legal aid.
Criminal lawyers are at present in the midst of a tender for duty work. The payment rates will be the same as they are now. To be bidding for such contracts, and at the same time striking against the pay rates now in force, was wholly inconsistent and doomed to failure.
If you want to know the direction of travel look at the United States and weep. Look at the prison population as a percentage of the population as a whole. Look at the USA budget for the Public Defender.
We haven’t had a government in 25 years that has taken a principled approach to legal aid. Just about the spend now. Labour as bad as the Tories.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Retired … You jammy so and so.

(0)(0)

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