Solicitors and barristers have called off their legal aid strike after 52 days as a ‘gesture of goodwill’ to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) following discussions over further cuts to fees.
A joint statement released today (21 August) by the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association (CLSA) and the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association (LCCSA) said: ‘For 52 days solicitors and barristers across the country have stood firm against the second cut. In recent weeks, the leaders of the practitioner groups have had the opportunity to engage with the MoJ and by so doing, have been able to provide ideas for long terms savings as a direct alternative to a cut in rates.
‘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.’
The CLSA and LCCSA concluded by stating that they ‘look forward to a continuing open dialogue with the government.’
Solicitors have been striking over the 8.75% cut to legal aid fees since the start of July, with the Criminal Bar Association voting to support solicitors on 15 July. The boycott was called over ‘untenable’ cuts to the litigators graduated fee scheme for duty solicitors in what is the second year of such reductions, bringing the total over a fifteen month period to 17.5%.
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.’