Court cases were disrupted in Sheffield as criminal barristers walked out in protest at government plans to cut their fees and legal aid.
The ‘non attendance’ protest by the Criminal Bar Association took place outside Sheffield Crown Court this morning, resulting in delays to criminal proceedings.
It is the first time in the Bar’s history barristers have taken action.
They are angry at plans to cut their fees by up to 30 per cent and slash legal aid.
They say it will force experienced barristers out of the profession along with those from poorer backgrounds and claim it will mean more miscarriages of justice due to inexperienced lawyers making mistakes.
The Sheffield barristers were taking part in a national day of action.
Mark George QC said: “The Bar will not sit idly by and watch its destruction.
“We will do what we have been trained to do and fight for justice.
“The public depend on the independent Criminal Bar both to prosecute cases and to defend them properly.
“Whether you are the victim of a crime or you are accused of a crime, you don’t want a minimum standards advocate who is out of their depth.
“We are seeing really good quality barristers leaving because they are no longer seeing a future in the job.
“We want the Government to take the current proposals off the table and meet our representatives so that we can find a good way forward.”
Barrister Kath Goddard said if the cuts went through the system would be ‘decimated’.
“The proposed changes to legal aid rates will mean only those with money entering the profession and 30 years of work towards equality and diversity destroyed.
“The criminal justice system protects the most vulnerable in society as victims, witnesses or defendants.
“A strong, fearless, independent Bar is motivated not by money but by doing right and by fairness.”
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We entirely agree lawyers should be paid fairly for their work, and believe our proposals do just that.
“We also agree legal aid is a vital part of our justice system – that’s why we have to find efficiencies to ensure it remains sustainable and available to those most in need of a lawyer.”