The Criminal Bar Association (CBA), which has approximately 4,000 members in England and Wales, voted narrowly in favour of refusing to work on new cases paid at lower legal aid rates that came into effect on 1 July. About 55% voted in favour and 45% were against.
Criminal barristers will also adopt a policy of “no returns” where they refuse to cover for colleagues at courts. The resulting impact could result in cases being further delayed due to lack of representation. This follows the news that solicitors in Merseyside refused to take on all new legal aid as of the 1st of July. This action has resulted in many defendants being remanded into custody because there is no solicitor available to apply for bail on their behalf.
Following the result of the vote Justice Secretary Michael Gove told the justice select committee: “I’m disappointed that the members of the CBA have voted in their ballot to take action. I believe the action is unnecessary at this time. We want to work constructively to ensure that we have a healthy engagement with the Bar”.
In response on Tuesday 14th July, there was a mass protest outside Manchester crown court, with some lawyers warning they might escalate their action and withdraw cover from duty appearances at police stations and magistrates courts. Following these continuing cuts to legal aid Manchester criminal defence solicitors Ralli have developed a new fixed fee service. Finding yourself the target of any prosecuting authority is distressing enough without the added financial pressure, Ralli solicitors llp have therefore created a fixed fee table which is affordable for everyone not just the wealthy.