After the failure of Price Competitive Tendering, we all know that Government 'Plan B' is just as bad.Click here to join us on 7th March
This plan is to make outright legal aid cuts ranging from 17.5% up to 68%, and also to hugely limit the number of firms eligible for duty solicitor contracts. In one stroke, this destroys two key strengths of our industry - our diversity and our professionalism. The effect will be to drive most high street firms out of business, not to mention bankrupting hundreds of barristers trying to persevere with criminal law.
Never forget these examples under current proposals from September 2013:
- Police Station - Fixed Fees of £160 with no escape clause.
- Magistrates' Court trial - £258 standard fee for the ENTIRE defence case
- A series of financial punishments if your client dares to plead 'not guilty' in the Crown Court
What was our response, as professionals?
- 808 firms, and 53 barristers chambers signed up to the pledge on www.criminallawyersunited.com, all stating that professional conduct would be impossible,
- Another 2,000 consultation responses have been filed, added to the original 16,000 last Summer.
- Discontent with The Law Society's handling of these reforms led to a vote of 'No Confidence' in its leadership,
- An independent report from Oxford Economics estimated £89m of savings will happen without any government reform.
- On 6th January 2014, the first ever co-ordinated action between the Bar and solicitors, estimated at 75% support across England and Wales.
Despite all of this, the government show little sign of listening. They still falsely present these cuts as necessary government savings. They still refuse to acknowledge these cuts are deliberately targeted towards those pleading 'not guilty'.
So we have tried engagement. We have tried argument. And we have provided expert evidence. But they are not listening, and time is running out.
So - what alternative remains open to us, as professionals?
- True professionals do not stand aside and watch the destruction of their criminal justice system.
- True professionals do not shrug their shoulders and say "Well it's austerity, I suppose".
- True professionals are not prepared to act as a veneer of legitimacy for a justice system undermined by ideologically-driven cuts.
- True professionals did not spend years learning and protecting the principles of fairness, diligence and duty, only to surrender it all without a whimper, without a fight.
On Friday 7th March 2014, each lawyer will make their own decision. But all true professionals will stand together and take action by not attending Court.
A rally is taking place in Central London, followed by a Training Event later that morning. All true professionals are welcome and details of the speakers and format of the event will follow.
This need not be a case of 'Some of us tried to stop this'. It can be 'All of us stood up, and all of us stopped this'.Click here to join us on 7th March