Solicitors have been staging protests outside courts nationwide following major cuts to legal aid.

Many believe the cuts will make it harder for small, high street law firms to survive, that it will make it more difficult to access justice and create a two-tier system that favours the better off.

Initially they are refusing all new work in both Magistrates and Crown Courts, in support of criminal defence solicitors, who have experienced a 17.5% drop in pay.

Jonathan Black, President of the London Criminal Court Solicitors Association, said: “Hundreds of solicitors’ firms around the country will close down, developing instead into mass justice warehouses, legal aid warehouses, where cases will be packed high and sold cheap.

“High street firms that ordinary people know how to access will be decimated.”

Legal Aid Strike “Protects Public Interest”

The Criminal Bar Associate is in support of the protesting solicitors. A representative spokesperson said: “We will continue to work closely with solicitors and listen to our membership who are making considerable personal sacrifices in order to protect the public interest.

“We seek to maintain a high quality criminal justice system in which excellent public service is delivered by committed solicitors and vibrant independent bar.”

Zoe Gascoyne, the chair of the Liverpool Law Society’s criminal practice committee, explained the effect these protests are having on the justice system. She said: “The courts are experiencing backlogs and finishing much later than normal.”

She added: “The effect is going to be felt most in the crown courts because that’s where legal aid fee rates are most unsustainable. Judges don’t appear to be hearing cases where there are unrepresented defendants. Cases are being adjourned at great cost to the criminal justice system.”


A campaign on Twitter, #legalaidhero, has been created to display the commitment and poor pay of those representing criminal defendants.

The Ministry of Justice have urged that the changes are for the benefit of taxpayers and does not mean that appropriate legal advice will still be available to those who need it, although they understand that this can be a difficult issue for lawyers.

An MoJ spokesperson said: “The changes we are making are designed to deliver value for money to taxpayers and do not impact on the availability of high quality legal advice to those who need it most.

“Although we recognise that the transition will be challenging for lawyers, these changes will put the profession on a sustainable footing for the long term. We have already pledged that an independent review looking at the impact of the new arrangements will begin in July 2016.”

Free DNA Tests

On the plus side, from September the government are providing aid for DNA testing and mediation for many of those who are unable to pay for it. Back in February the government announced that £500,000 – £1m a year will be used to pay for the DNA tests in these circumstances using money from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service.

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