Barristers stage job action to protest planned cuts in legal aid

Jan. 7, 2014 at 1:35 AM
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LONDON, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- Barristers wearing wigs and gowns protested outside the courts Monday across England and Wales instead of appearing inside.

The job action was held to protest cuts in the budget for legal aid, the Guardian reported. Solicitors, who do trial preparation, joined the barristers, the trial lawyers, on the street.

Only one of the 18 courts in London's famous Old Bailey was in session, the newspaper said. Demonstrations were held in other London courts and in Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Preston, Birmingham, Newcastle, Winchester, Bristol and Cardiff.

Nigel Lithman, chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, said the government's figure of 84,000 pounds ($138,000) for a criminal barrister's income is exaggerated. He said those working in legal aid cases made about 50,000 pounds ($82,000), which is reduced still further by chambers' fees, value added tax and other expenses to 32,000 pounds ($52,500).

"There has been a very large response by barristers," he said. "We had 150 people outside the court in Southwark, in south London, 150 in Manchester, 90 in Preston and many more in other cities."

While there appeared to be little disruption, that was because judges, aware the protest was being planned, had scheduled around it, Lithman said. Lawyers returned to work at 2 p.m.

In England and Wales, criminal barristers designated as queen's counsel can also appear as prosecutors. Lithman warned that cutting earnings would have a long-term effect on prosecutions, the Daily Mirror reported.

"We are going to see cases collapsing as they have already started to, there are cases of murders, murder trials, that have collapsed because of them being inadequately prosecuted -- that leads to enormous concerns for the victim's family," he said.

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