In the Media

National protest marks end of legal aid consultation

PUBLISHED June 3, 2013

Monday 03 June 2013 by Catherine Baksi

Lawyers across England and Wales will unite for a 'minute of unity' at 09.59 tomorrow to mark the deadline for responses to the Transforming Legal Aid consultation, which they warn will have a devastating effect on the criminal justice system.

The Law Society has backed the action, organised by Exeter solicitor Rachel Bentley, who also set up an e-petition to oppose the removal of client choice proposed in the consultation.

Solicitors and barristers will pause before proceedings outside court buildings to express their concern over the plans.

The minute will be observed in courts including those in Exeter, Colchester, Barnstable, Margate, Liverpool, Leicester, Wakefield, West Yorkshire, Yeovil, Coventry, Teesside, Newcastle, Reading, Manchester, Plymouth and Kendal.

Lawyers in London will stage a three-hour demonstration outside the Ministry of Justice tomorrow from 4.30-7.30pm. The rally will hear from high-profile lawyers as well as Liberty and the Children's Society.

Bentley said: 'The ministry has said it accepts that there is disquiet among some in the legal profession over the changes, we hope this will show that it is not just lawyers who are concerned about it. We hope members of the public will join in too.'

Head of legal aid policy at the Law Society Richard Miller said: 'We hope it will be a powerful demonstration of the extent to which the profession is united in arguing that the proposals will not work.'

Following criticisms that the reforms, which introduce a legal aid eligibility threshold of £37,500, will deny legal aid to many, justice secretary Chris Grayling told Saturday's Daily Telegraph: 'The changes to entitlement to legal aid are really designed only to affect people earning £100,000-a-year or more.'

The e-petition is online now.

A separate petition, started by the Bar Council, is also available.