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British Lawyers Vote to Protest Government Cuts
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Photo courtesy of The Telegraph.

Summary: Criminal barristers in the UK voted to stage mass walkouts to protest government cuts. 

Barristers in England and Wales are unhappy with the government cuts to the justice system, so this week, they voted to stage mass walkouts and refuse publicly funded cases, according to The Guardian. 

  
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The criminal attorneys were triggered by changes to the advocates’ graduated fee scheme (AGFS). This change is expected to further reduce their income so leaders of the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) have organized to tell barristers to not accept work after April 1.

“The [criminal justice] system is desperate, as are we. We are informing our members today that they should consider not taking any [new] work from April 1, the implementation date of the reforms,” Angela Raffety, the chair of the CBA told The Guardian. “We will hold days of action. We will fight to improve the justice system for us and everyone else. We announce this action today with heavy hearts.”

The CBA has thousands of members, practicing and non-active. The group organized a poll, and this week, 90% of its members voted to protest the government.

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“Criminal legal aid solicitors are critical for ensuring that anyone accused of wrongdoing has a fair trial. If it is not economically viable for solicitors to undertake this work, the integrity of the whole criminal justice system will be compromised,” The Law Society president, Joe Egan, said.

According to The Guardian, court staff and solicitors also plan to protest the budget cuts for the justice system.



“Lack of funding in the criminal justice system has resulted in near-collapse. The public accounts committee (PAC) in 2016 said the criminal justice system was at breaking point. In my view, it is now broken. We have to fix it,” Rafferty said.

From 2010 to 2016, the UK criminal justice system’s funding has been cut by 26%. In November 2017, the Ministry of Justice announced more cuts, which would have resulted in a further reduction of 9%.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said they were disappointed to hear about the CBA’s decision to walk out.

“We are extremely disappointed with the position the CBA has taken today, especially given that they and other members of the bar participated fully in the design of the [AGFS] scheme,” the spokesperson said. “Our reforms will reflect the actual work done in court, representing better value for the taxpayer, and will replace an archaic scheme under which barristers were able to bill by pages of evidence.”

What do you think of the news of this protest? Let us know in the comments below.



 

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