The Government is right to cut public spending but the legal aid cuts proposed by Chris Grayling, the Lord Chancellor and Minister for Justice, will increase the likelihood criminals going free and of innocent people going to gaol. They will devastate both the barristers’ and solicitors’ professions. The savings to public money – even if they are achieved – are minuscule in comparison to the damage that the cuts will inflict. The cuts in criminal legal aid will be felt most by the poorest: many, perhaps most, defendants in criminal criminal cases are penniless. But a decent criminal justice system is essential for everyone whether rich or poor.
- The government wants to save £220M by cutting criminal legal aid. It is a tiny proportion of overall public spending (equivalent to the cost of a single civilian airliner) but it will have a devastating effect on the criminal bar and solicitors’ professions.
- Criminal barristers are highly qualified but most earn far less than any comparable profession. The government’s own figures, untrustworthy though they are, show that most have a turnover (including VAT) of £57,000 or less which equates to a taxable income of about £37,500 or less.
- The criminal legal aid budget has been falling anyway since 2009.
- Crown Court advocates, whether barristers or solicitors, have received no increase in legal aid fees for 10 years, not even to keep pace with inflation.
- In 2010 Crown Court barristers’ fees were actually cut by 13.5% over three years.
- No other publicly funded professionals have had fee cuts imposed in this way. At worst they have had their pay increases restricted.
- The incentive for able young barristers to come to the criminal bar is already almost non-existent. The result if the cuts are implemented will be a steady deterioration in the quality of lawyers practising in the criminal courts. Inevitably more guilty people will be acquitted and more innocent people will be convicted.
- Solicitors firms as well as individual barristers are threatened by these cuts. The only survivors are likely to be massive companies dealing with as many clients as possible as fast as possible. The Ministry of Justice proposes that clients pleading guilty will be more valuable to these companies than those who contest their guilt.
- This will lead to less client choice and less competition between individual barristers and solicitors. Choice and competition are essential to maintain and improve quality of service, a principle accepted by the Government in nearly every other context.
- For years barristers and solicitors practising criminal law have simply got on with their job and accepted every cut in fees that has been imposed on them. The time has come when we cannot accept any more and still hope to keep a decent and properly functioning legal system.
2 thoughts on “10 Reasons Why criminal barristers are right to strike today”
I agree with most of your points, but I do have a comment to make about point 7.
Although the deterioration in the quality of criminal barristers may be reduced it doesn’t necessarily follow that this will cause an increase in innocent people being convicted.
Although I do believe you are right in saying that there will be an increase in making sure only the guilty pleas are taken as they are quicker and so will generate more income over time, which is obviously fundamentally wrong.
Otherwise, some great points here and plenty of reasons for the walk-out.
I agree with most of your points that have been shared. Point number 10 is most important according to my viewpoint. It is necessary that a proper legal system should be set up for appropraite functioning.