- Last night there was a debate in parliament about legal aid and in particular the new AGFS scheme. Prior to this we organised a panel discussion including the Shadow Lord Chancellor and the Chair of the Justice Select Committee.
- The government debate focused on the scheme, although many of our wider concerns were raised by MP’s. The government repeatedly said that the scheme will cost up to 9m more – this is not accepted. We remind you all that the Ministry insisted on cost neutrality from the outset. There is no new investment at all in criminal legal aid.
- You are well aware of our announcement of the 29th March 2018 recommending that members consider not taking work under 1st April 2018 representation orders and the reasons behind this. Many of you have taken this stance.
- We now consider it is necessary to escalate this action in order to show that we really have reached breaking point as we said at last night’s event and have been saying for many years.
- We still seek a resolution and will actively take part in all efforts to bring this situation to an end. However there must be a recognition that investment is required in the AGFS and the criminal justice system.
- There can be no more moving around of money from a dwindling ‘envelope’ exposing the underlying impoverishment of the scheme and the system. Those who undertake the difficult, complex and time consuming work must be properly paid for it. This includes payment for unused material. Junior barristers must see the possibility of career progression. We must be able to recruit and retain those who want to have a career with us.
- There must be future proofing to the fee scheme so that the Criminal Bar can become a sustainable and attractive profession once again.
- There must be a halt to the intended cuts to the MOJ budget over the next years.
- All professionals who work in the system must be treated properly. Remuneration levels are only part of the general crisis.
- The crisis in court buildings are now well known. The conditions for all court users are completely unacceptable. This must change.
- We repeat that the poor and vulnerable in society are being denied access to justice due to the continued onslaught of cuts. Members of the public are at risk of miscarriages of justice and the faith of the public in the jury system is being undermined by the chaos in courts. Access to justice is a critical part of a civilised democracy.
We therefore list our recommended actions. We remind you that association cannot direct action, only advise and recommend. It is every barrister’s individual decision how to proceed in her or his professional affairs.
The CBA proposes that members consider the following actions to secure proper investment in the Criminal Justice system. The association cannot direct action, only advise and recommend. It is every barrister’s individual decision how to proceed in her or his professional affairs.
- To continue to refuse instructions on all cases subject to a representation order dated on or after 1st April 2018 and;
- To operate a “no returns” policy on all cases from the 25th May 2018. There is a protocol linked to this announcement, which will assist members when arranging their professional diaries and;
- Take part with other organisations involved in the Criminal Justice system in targeted Days of Action to highlight the crisis in the system. Dates and details of such action will be notified to members privately.
Members who require further guidance should contact us at [email protected]
Wednesday 9th May 2018
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