Four defendants accused of being part of a Rotherham child sexual exploitation network have been left without lawyers as a result of the ongoing legal aid strike.
The ongoing dispute between solicitors and the Ministry of Justice over cuts in fees has seen defendants accused of serious crimes across South Yorkshire having to represent themselves in court.
Among those who have been affected are Majid Ali Bostan, 37, 52-year-old Qurban Ali, Karen MacGregor, 58, and forty-year-old Shelley Davies.
The four people have all people charged as part of Operation Clover, an investigation into historic child sexual exploitation offences in Rotherham.
They have appeared at both Rotherham Magistrates Court and Sheffield Crown Court this month without any legal support.
At Sheffield Crown Court, it was said evidence against the four unrepresented defendants would have to be served directly to them rather than through a solicitors’ firm.
Judge Julian Goose said he hoped solicitors will be in a position to represent the four people ‘as soon as possible’, with a potential trial set for December and defendants needing to have defence case statements prepared in time for their next hearing in September.
He said that if the strike continues, further action may need to be taken by the courts to ensure they can receive a fair trial.
“I sincerely hope you will be represented at this trial and all the way through,” he said.
“If that is not the case, further orders will be needed to make sure this case runs smoothly.”
Hester Russell, a South Yorkshire representative of the Criminal Law Solicitors Association, said more defendants are now appearing at Crown Court without any one to represent them.
She that on Friday a man accused of a rape offence had to make his own bail application at Sheffield Crown Court, with the application being rejected and the man remanded in custody.