So stand tall, stand firm and stand together. Solicitors and barristers united.

14 July 2015

Over 300 Criminal lawyers gathered today for a Rally outside Manchester Crown Square Court. Speakers included Oliver Gardner, Zoe Gascoyne, Jaime Hamilton and CLSA Chair Bill Waddington. Patrick Harris also read out a statement from Garden Court North Chambers’ Mark George QC, which is reproduced below:

Only the Inquest for one of our Hillsborough families which is being heard this afternoon prevents me from being with you today but the fact that you are demonstrating your support for access to justice and to save criminal legal aid makes me very proud of you all.  Thank you for taking the time and showing you care about these important matters.

The cut of 8.75% imposed on solicitors recently together with a similar cut last year makes a mockery of government claims that they support a flourishing legal profession and wish to see it put on a stable footing for the future.   The reality is these cuts will threaten the viability of many solicitor’s practices as well as representing a major threat to the survival of the independent criminal Bar.

That is why this struggle is not just one for solicitors.  If these latest cuts are to be reversed it will need a joint effort by both arms of the legal profession.  Many of you will have shared my dismay at the number of senior members of the Bar who have declared their opposition to a fight-back against these cuts. 

Happily many junior members of the Bar seem to disagree with them and I am proud that Garden Court North was the first of a growing number of chambers in Manchester to join the action by refusing new cases after 1 st July and reinstating the “no returns” policy.   Together we are always stronger.

No one else can fight these cuts, only us.  There is no other time to fight them.  Only now.  What you are doing today can ensure that Legal Aid remains available to those who find themselves accused of a crime and will help to ensure they receive high quality advice and representation rather than the government’s vision of minimum standards.

Reports from around the country suggest the action being taken is having a dramatic effect on court lists and is causing significant disruption.  Whilst lawyers are naturally reluctant to take direct action, when, as now, it becomes necessary to do so we must do it with the maximum resolve.

So stand tall, stand firm and stand together.  Solicitors and barristers united.”

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