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Legal aid row: ‘Sit down and talk with us’, top QCs tell government

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Nearly 100 chambers are now refusing to take new publicly-funded cases

A host of top criminal barristers have requested an “urgent meeting” with the government as the row over cuts to legal aid escalates.

In a message to its members, Criminal Bar Association (CBA) chair Angela Rafferty QC warned that our “broken” criminal justice system is facing an “unprecedented financial assault”. Rafferty, a criminal barrister at London’s Red Lion Chambers, said:

“It is now absolutely clear to us that this government does not intend to invest in criminal justice at all. In fact it intends to make more cuts.”

So with that in mind the CBA has requested an “urgent meeting” with government bigwigs to discuss, among other things, changes to the Advocates’ Graduated Fee Scheme (AGFS), which barristers say will result in further cuts to their income. Rafferty continued:

“From disclosure debacles to prison riots, the system is in crisis and has broken. Repair and restoration cannot wait. Our profession cannot wait whilst the onslaught of cuts continue.”

Rafferty’s message is co-signed by CBA vice chair Chris Henley QC and all six circuit leaders: William Mousley QC (Western Circuit), Kerim Fuad QC (South Eastern Circuit), Paul Hopkins QC (Wales and Chester Circuit), Michael Hayton QC (Northern Circuit), Nigel Sangster QC (North Eastern Circuit) and Michael Duck QC (Midland Circuit).

The 2018 Chambers Most List

The meeting request comes as the number of chambers now refusing new legal aid work hits 97, according to a spreadsheet circulating on social media. Criminal barristers have been declining new publicly-funded cases since 1 April in protest against government cuts to criminal justice.

Rafferty said: “We will not see any change for the better if we don’t fight for it.”

And it’s not just barristers who are putting pressure on the government. Last week, hundreds of campaigners held a vigil outside the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) building in protest.

Image credit: Twitter (@thebarcouncil)

Speakers at the event, organised by campaign group the Justice Alliance, included Garden Court Chambers’ Mark George QC, Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon MP and Young Legal Aid Lawyers co-chair Katherine Barnes.

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91 Comments

Anonymous

Sit down and talk *to* us.

(4)(5)

Anonymous

*at

(0)(2)

Anonymous

Tory government continuing on its quest to ruin the country. Good luck to the criminal bar, hopefully they put a stop to this mess.

(10)(7)

Beta Barrister

8 years at the criminal Bar.

Still enjoying it, but…

Still skint.

Still indebted.

Still renting.

Nothing to show for it.

Any tips for transferring to another area of law?

(14)(0)

Criminal barrister

#MeToo

(5)(0)

Corbyn. Sympathiser

Vote Corbyn. All your problems will then be solved.

(1)(4)

Anonymous

To Beta Barrister,
If it’s a career change you’re after how about Kingsley Napley? My friend is there, she’s fairly junior but still on 70k.

Good luck my friend.

(8)(0)

An impartial observer

You could always join the legalcheek writing staff, but you’d need to get a lobotomy first, and they wouldn’t even pay you afterwards. But they’ll pay for the lobotomy and afterwards you’ll be so deranged you won’t even notice how shit your life is!

(3)(1)

Alex, Tom and Katie

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(1)(0)

A trust fund with a trust fund

No but the free lobotomy is

A trust fund with a trust fund

TBC:
Implying Alex engaged in certain activities with vicars is a big no no
BUT
implying he and the rest of his staff have had a lobotomy is NBD

(2)(0)

Sensible

Dont see the need for legal aid.

Fed up paying for other peoples problems (free education, NHS, transport..will the list never end)

(22)(44)

Anon

Did you get a free education? Have you ever been to a GP or hospital and not had to pay at the point of service? If you were falsely accused of something, would you want a barrister there to defend you?
Amazes me how people want to pull the laddet up after them.

(32)(13)

Anonymous

It’s these kind of people that are destroying the UK. They are so self centred, narrow minded and thick that they cannot see that a country which doesn’t invest in the basic necessities and shares them equitably fu(ks itself and the following generations to come.

(11)(4)

Anonymous

What utter rubbish. Educate an elite and the rest takes care of itself.

(7)(20)

Anonymous

You obviously have no clue whatsoever and have received an appalling education yourself. History shows your belief to be demonstrably wrong.

Anonymous

Oh go and live under a rock then. Honestly, some people’s parents ought never to have bred.

(3)(10)

Corbyn. Sympathiser

Such as Trumpenkreig’s.

(1)(3)

Anonymous

I think the things as a UK tax payer you should be really fed up paying for is underwriting and bailing out a corrupt banking system that put the world into a financial meltdown and a few dodgy wars in the Middle East.

(12)(1)

Anonymous

Just as well they did bail out the banks. The carnage that would have followed otherwise may have led to a Corbyn government ffs

(11)(4)

Anonymous

Well, you’re paying for your beliefs in your taxes so you shouldn’t be fed up seeing your money going to the treasury every month.

(0)(1)

Anonymous

Do you drive? Or perhaps you get the tube to work? Do you use the aid of street lights to see whilst out in the dark? Do you put things in the bin whilst out in public?

All of the above somebody else is paying for. Your small contribution means f*ck all and you’re arrogant to think that you are paying for others and deserve to get more or to contribute less. As a society we all chip in and the money is distributed as fair as the government may attempt.

(15)(3)

Anonymous

Yeah but there’s a difference between council tax and income tax, don’t forget.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Same logic applies to both though. You pay in to the pot and will benefit from some things that pot is used for but not others.

(2)(1)

Anonymous

Huh?

(1)(1)

Anonymous

Surely the concepts of a fair trial and innocent until proven guilty are worth paying for out of tax revenue? They are cornerstones of any free, demorcratic, civilised society.

(6)(2)

Sensible

That’s very naive.

Important – Yes.

Cornerstones – No

(1)(4)

James Vine

It could be your problem if you or yours were ever wrongly accused of a crime you did not commit

(1)(0)

Sensible

Yea but how likely is that?

(0)(2)

Anonymous

It’s possible. And if not you, someone you love. It’s not just those accused of crime it’s the victims, the witnesses, they are all impacted by this crumbling mess. The right people being convicted makes us safer. If you bankrupt yourself defending a charge you don’t get the money back if you are aquitted.

(0)(0)

Sensible

No of course I didnt go to a state school.

Happy to pay for private medical care (and a good silk if I ever need one).

(18)(26)

Anonymous

Your education, even if it was fee paying, was still subsidised by the tax payer in the form of the charitable status afforded to fee paying schools. Your university education was also subsidised by the tax payer.

(16)(9)

Anon

Not paying tax is not a subsidy any more than 40% tax is not 60% relief.

(2)(3)

Anonymous

Yes, it is. The point is that the true cost of private education would be much higher if the government did away with its charitable status, if people want to have the benefits and privileges that come with a private education then its unfair that the private providers are not subject to tax like any other service provider. Also many private fee paying schools receive large amounts of government money through schooling children of the military.

(2)(2)

Sensible

And give lots of scholarships to oiks too – so the balance is even

Anonymous

You do realise that your private medical care does not send you an air ambulance in the event that you get stabbed or shot?

(9)(3)

Anonymous

Nor does the State. Air ambulances are funded by charity.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

That’s a lot of mouth for a student who’s never worked a day before.

You must be a student because an employed/self-employed person couldn’t really be so blinkered.

(3)(11)

Anonymous

Would you expect an ambulance if you had a car crash?

(1)(5)

Sensible

Would you expect a decent salary when you grow up?

(6)(2)

Anonymous

If you are charged with an offence and you don’t get legal aid (any one who is working basically) you either have to take the legally aided barrister and top up or you have to pay for the whole thing privately not just the silk. There is no option to top up. After a three week trial you are looking at £150,000. Solicitors costs, a junior and a silk.

(0)(0)

A very tired, middle-aged criminal barrister.

There won’t be a good silk available – good silks are those who have distinguished themselves in a career at whichever branch of the law they practice … if they can’t pay off the enormous debt after studying, earn enough to provide for periods of illness or the odd holiday (we aren’t on salaries with such benefits as sickness or holiday pay) and pay the bills – there may not be a “good silk” for you to “hire”.

If you hit and killed someone while driving one day (“momentary lapse of concentration”) or someone made an allegation you indecently touched them 20 years ago (“it was just a joke” or “I don’t even remember that person”)

… you may be glad of a criminal barrister, with appropriate expertise, who is diligent enough to ensure there is adequate disclosure, the evidence against you is tested and you are given a fair trial.

But you strike me as someone who believes wholeheartedly that these sorts of thinks only happen to other people.

Me, I’m not a Silk. But today I do work that, when I started at the Bar, only Silks would be permitted to do. I am not unusual in this regard, all Criminal “junior” barristers (ie not Silk) do.
I’ve represented school teachers who have been targeted by angry pupils with false allegations of sexual offending; nice “middle-class” boys with bad taste in girlfriends; some more “upmarket” clients with similar problems … and (of course) some very guilty clients. One thing I do know – before a Jury, fighting for their shattered reputation and their liberty … they are all the same. Facing the weight of the State and terrified.

And no, I don’t do private work, I am a Legal Aid barrister.

(3)(0)

Sensible

Hope I do never need your services as you sound like you are past it tbh (hopefully because you have a disliking for me) but still you should not be paying attention to the fact that my cause, conduct or whatever is objectionable to you (but its late and you’re only human after all)

(0)(2)

Sensible

Thanks for that piece of sophistry.

I am always open to compromise so will consider arguments on means testing later this afternoon

(6)(13)

Sensible

I dont live in an area where I am likely to get stabbed or shot

(13)(9)

Anonymous

So you don’t live in Chelsea or Fulham then, obvs your fee paying school was not Eton or Harrow.

(1)(14)

KK

Neither did the majority of the victims of the atrocious terrorist attacks on London and if it wasn’t for the common tax payer and the NHS, a lot more people would have dies on EVERY occasion.

Sensible? You’re a c*nt at best.

(8)(15)

Anonymous

That is a very misogynistic word KK (and boohoo btw)

(6)(0)

Anonymous

Why London? Far more died in Manchester.

(6)(0)

Sensible

Wow. Thats a serious chip you are nursing there

(14)(1)

Anonymous

Not really, I’m just sick of jumped up oiks that have gone to crappy fee paying schools behaving like they’re major public school.

(2)(10)

Anonymous

Btw – I am major public school, Oxbridge and live in Chelsea so no chips here.

(1)(18)

Sensible

If you say so buddy. Not sure how you link your unnamed “major” PS to Chelsea tho

(10)(1)

Anonymous

Then let me explain, (1) you said you did not live in an area where you are likely to get stabbed or shot, (2) I guessed therefore that you do not live in Chelsea or Fulham as shootings and stabbings happen there quite frequently, (3) you came back with your ill informed and erroneous quip that I have a chip on my shoulder, (4) I was making the point that as someone who fits the aspirational targets of people like you, ie I went to a major and live in Chelsea the point I was making at (2) and the wider point about your objectionable lack of civic responsibility and social conscience could not stem from having a chip on my shoulder or my being in any way envious of the sense of privilege or entitlement you bestow on yourself. Clear.

(5)(11)

Sensible

As mud

Anonymous

Chelsea is a shit place to live anyway. Areas like Bermondsey, Willesden Junction and Herne Hill have far more life and character.

Anonymous

By which you mean major-minor( uppingham/oundle/rugby etc) and a crap post grad in human rights and oxford and you rent in chelsea.

Hardly one of the gang

(4)(0)

Anonymous

Nope, Eton, First in Jprud from top three norrington and own my own 2 bed in chesham place. Independent practice at the commercial bar.

(1)(5)

Anonymous

Chesham place is belgravia not chelsea

Anonymous

I do want to sound like a right twat so we call it Chelsea

Anonymous

“Don’t”

Negative Equity

How many square feet does a million get you in Chesham Place these days as a matter of interest?

Anonymous

😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆

Sensible

I agree with you on that (but probably only on that I suspect)

(0)(0)

Sensible

And really citing Fulham as in any way desirable is a f@cking joke

(15)(0)

Anonymous

Come on boys. This is all getting a bit agro. Why don’t you just arrange to meet up and you can flop them out and see whose is bigger?

(22)(0)

Anonymous

Why would you say that? Just because somebody has a bigger d*ck it makes them right? Plenty of men with smaller ones are perfectly competent at literally everything.

(1)(3)

Corbyn. Sympathiser

Then there’s Donald Trump. Small, and incompetent at anything. I bet JC, on the other hand, is massive.

(1)(1)

Anonymous

And hard

Negative Equity

People with red rheumy eyes like JC always have big ones because they stay up all night playing with themselves and posting on LC

SingaporeSwing

I really do think this strike action is necessary.

The criminal bar should make a standard professional’s wage – comparable to a GP.

It’s an important job.

(16)(0)

Sensible

A sensible comment finally. Non of this off topic rubbish from Anonymous or Corbyn Sympathaser. Good Man

(2)(0)

Corbyn. Symphathiser

I take your point, though I will say in my defence that I am usually only as off topic as those I am rebutting (though the number of cosplayers who repeat “bugger off” etc. can be misleading, I grant you).

(3)(2)

Sensible

I should not have lumped you together with Anonymous. That was wrong on my part. Anonymous has no sense of humour

(1)(0)

Jacob Rees-Mogg

This comment thread is a perfect example of why I always come back to Legal Cheek.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

Who said law was eleitist ?!

(4)(0)

Anonymous

I assume you deliberately misspelled elitist?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

That a very kind thing to assume, thank you kind sir.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

We need socialism to pay for legal aid.

Tax higher earners with a 75% income tax.

Redistribute the earnings of City law firms to the downtrodden and oppressed on legal aid.

Vote Corbyn

(3)(4)

Anonymous

We don’t need socialism to pay for legal aid. As the book the secret barrister says it presently costs the state less than the free TV licences we give pensioners. It’s not politically pressing so they cut it. As they say in the lottery adverts. It could be you !

(2)(0)

Sensible

There is no such thing as the “downtrodden”, just those who wilfully refuse to either pull themselves up by their bootstraps or accept their fate with good grace

(4)(7)

Anonymous

So the child of poor parents should not be entitled to, say, NHS cancer treatment but should instead “accept their fate with good grace”?

(3)(1)

Anonymous

Not far off what seems to be happening these days. I wonder if Alfie Evans’ parents were upper middle class posh people the Medical profession and courts would have been as quick to withdraw aid?

(1)(4)

Sensible

Dont be so heavy

(1)(5)

Corbyn. Symphathiser

They’re not being ‘heavy’, they’re addressing what would be very real consequences of the world you want to see.

When you propose “there should be no social safety net”, and someone challenges you by noting that this will result in the premature deaths and long term suffering of millions, replying “I don’t want to think about the consequences” is unlikely to sway many people to your point of view.

(3)(0)

Sensible

Away you go,
Collect your hordes;
Proclaim your woe
In dismal chords;

(0)(1)

Corbyn. Symphathiser

This, too, is unconvincing.

(1)(0)

Sensible

Just another way of saying “bugger off” JC

(0)(1)

Corbyn. Sympathiser

I accept your surrender.

(2)(1)

Sensible

How about a student loan style scheme whereby villains can pay on the never never and members of the criminal bar can once again enjoy the lifestyle of its 1960 glory days?

(2)(1)

Comments are closed.

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