Leeds lawyers take action over legal aid cuts

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CRIMINAL lawyers in Leeds have indicated they will refuse legal aid-funded cases in protest against government cuts.

Solicitors’ fees were yesterday reduced by a further 8.75 per cent, bringing the total reduction to 17.5 per cent following a cut by the same amount last year. The Government has sought to slash the scheme’s budget, which Justice Secretary Michael Gove said was “significantly higher” than other EU nations.

Anthony Sugare, spokesman for Leeds Defence Solicitors, told the YEP: “From today Leeds solicitors are not undertaking any fresh legal aid work in protest at the cuts brought in by the Government, not only from today but previous cuts in payment for legal aid work, with further cuts proposed in January of next year.

“The profession has not had an increase in over 20 years and while it is accepted that many professions have had cut backs, the legal profession are quite clearly the target for most cuts in society.”

He added: “We are being supported by in this action by most, if not all, of the local barristers.” Bill Waddington, chairman of the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association, wrote to Mr Gove to warn that barristers and solicitors had met to discuss refusing to work at the new rates. He said: “Unity between solicitors and barristers, both silks and juniors, lead us to believe that there will be very limited coverage across the country in police stations and courts, and over a period of time the situation will deteriorate further.

“The criminal justice system is heading towards meltdown as a result of these cuts.”