DOZENS of criminal court cases were disrupted yesterday after barristers staged a walk out in protest over cuts to legal aid.
All crown courts and several magistrates courts in England and Wales were affected by the day of action, and severe disruption was caused at both Burnley and Preston crown courts.
The lawyers took part in the ‘mass non-attendance’ betweem 10am and 2pm in protest at plans to slash legal aid fees by up to 30 per cent.
Solicitors also joined the protest, the first of its kind in British legal history, and a crowd gathered outside Preston crown court to voice their opposition to the government’s plans.
Organised by the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) the half-day walk-out was held on the first normal working day of 2014 – one of the busiest days in the legal calendar.
Tony Cross QC, vice chairman of the CBA, who is a Burnley season ticket holder, joined the lawyers in Preston.
He read a statement from the CBA said: “Our system of justice is the envy of the world but gradually over time it has become starved of resources.
“Those who practice in crime are treated with contempt by this government. Now the very future of our criminal justice system is in jeopardy by the imposition of savage cuts to funding.”
Clitheroe-based barrister Ken Hind said: “Legal Aid is a pillar of the welfare state providing those who cannot it afford it with high class legal services to protect them from dominant powers. All this will be put at risk by proposed changes in legal aid.”
A court service spokesperson said the walkout was ‘manageable’ and with ‘limited’ impact.