The members of 15NBS have been at the forefront of the action taken by the Bar, solicitors and others within the legal profession against the attack upon legal aid by the current Government. The financial cuts across the system, both enacted and proposed, are part of an ideological battle against the welfare state. They strike at the heart of the individual’s access to justice and the fundamental rights to which we are all entitled as part of a democratic society. In response to the Criminal Bar Association’s recent consultation, members agreed that such action needed to continue and to be increased.
The Lord Chancellor’s recent decision to suspend cuts to the Graduated Fee Scheme is to be commended. Such cuts were devastating to the interests of justice and would have signalled the death of the independent criminal Bar; however, the wider cuts which have already been implemented in respect of solicitors’ fees and the VHCC scheme still threaten the fabric of the criminal justice system.
We at 15NBS are committed to supporting all criminal practitioners in action to resist these cuts. In particular, we will not be accepting returns from solicitors for hearings on the days of action which have been announced and we are consulting with those who instruct us, with a view to determining the further action which we will jointly take to combat the irreparable damage which is likely to be caused if the Government does not re-address the cuts which have been implemented as a matter of urgency.