The Criminal Bar Association of England and Wales (CBA) has voted to support solicitors in their strike action over the 8.75% cut to legal aid fees that was imposed at the start of July this year.
The move, which was voted in favour of by 982 votes to 795 or a margin of 55% to 45%, means criminal barristers will refuse to accept new work with a Representation Order dated after 1 July, and will no longer carry out what was described as a ‘goodwill gesture’ of filling in for colleagues on cases when diary clashes occur.
Following the vote, the CBA Executive will hold a meeting tonight (15 July) to consider how best to tell professional and lay clients over the decision, as well as how to inform court managers and judges in the event that cases need to be rescheduled because of clashes.
Solicitors in London and across the UK have been boycotting legal aids cases for the last two weeks following ‘untenable’ further cuts of 8.75% to the litigators graduated fee scheme for duty solicitors. The cuts are the second year of such reductions and brings the total amount over a fifteen month period to 17.5%.
The boycott has spread nationwide, with mass meetings of criminal solicitors and barristers in cities including Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle and Bradford lending their support.
In June, justice secretary Michael Gove outlined his reform agenda for civil justice in a wide-ranging speech entitled: ‘What does a one nation justice policy look like?’ On the subject of legal aid, Gove called for the profession to do more pro bono work, saying ‘it is clear to me that it is fairer to ask our most successful legal professionals to contribute a little more rather than taking more in tax from someone on the minimum wage.’