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‘The system is desperate, as are we’: Criminal barristers to REFUSE new work in protest to legal aid cuts

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Decision taken with ‘heavy hearts’

Criminal barristers across England and Wales will refuse new publicly-funded cases in protest against government cuts to legal aid. The decision comes after Criminal Bar Association (CBA) members voted overwhelming in favour of mass walkouts from 1 April (Easter Sunday).

In a survey organised by the CBA, 2,081 of the 2,317 barristers who voted said they were in favour of direct action. That’s 90%.

The impending walkout is in direct response to the government’s changes to the Advocates’ Graduated Fee Scheme (AGFS), which barristers say will result in further cuts to their income.

In a statement issued today, CBA chair Angela Rafferty QC said: “The system is desperate, as are we… We are informing our members today that you should consider not taking any work under representation orders from 1 April 2018, the implementation date of the reforms.” Rafferty, a tenant of London’s Red Lion Chambers, continued:

“We will hold days of actions. We will fight to improve the justice system for us and everyone else. We announce this action today with heavy hearts.”

A number of top sets have already indicated their support for action, including Garden Court Chambers, 25 Bedford Row and Doughty Street Chambers. Legal Cheek understands the action will not affect cases currently underway in the courts.

Unfortunately this isn’t the first time lawyers have felt the need to down tools in protest to changes made to our fragile justice system. In 2014 and 2015, solicitors and barristers stood shoulder-to-shoulder against the then Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling’s plans to cut the legal aid budget by £220 million per year by 2018.

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