On 6th January thousands of legal aid solicitors across the country will join barristers in a united protest at the government's proposed fee cuts.
The barristers plan a morning of 'non-attendance' in Crown Courts. At a meeting in Birmingham yesterday, criminal defence solicitors from firms all over England and Wales voted in favour of joining the barristers' protest, which means that both Crown Courts and Magistrates Courts will be affected.
The nationwide protest is designed to show the government and the public the extent of the damage that fee cuts of between 17.5% and more than 30% will have on courts all over the country. For much of the country the 6th January will be the first working day after Christmas.
Members of the LCCSA and the CLSA are supportive of the action and have consistently warned of the impact on justice, including the fees' perverse incentives for guilty pleas.
New LCCSA president Nicola Hill said after the meeting:
' Solicitors don't take this action lightly. A very short period of disruption should serve as a wake-up call. These cuts aren't just about the legal profession. Far from it. These new fees will see cut-price, often inadequate legal advice being dispensed to people whose liberty is at stake and trials collapsing because of poor representation. We're on a slippery slope towards a justice system which sees more innocent people going to jail and the guilty walking free. Reluctantly, like barristers, we've been driven to this.'
Bill Waddington, Chair of the Criminal Law Solicitors Association added,
'The morning of 6th January is a glimpse into the future of the criminal justice system under the proposals, with a shortage of suitable representation for those who need it. Rightly, our system is the envy of the world. If these plans go through it'll become an international laughing stock.'