Sheffield lawyers’ cuts fury protest

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Angry barristers and solicitors in Sheffield accused the Government of ‘dismantling the criminal justice system’ when they gathered to protest about proposed coalition cuts.

Around 100 lawyers met outside the city’s crown court yesterday morning to oppose government reforms which will see access to legal aid limited, lawyers’ fees slashed and less experienced lawyers taking on more serious cases.

Members of the legal profession say the changes will destroy the criminal justice system and lead to guilty defendants walking free from court and more miscarriages of justice.

There are also concerns smaller law firms will go out of business.

Barrister Michael Upson branded the proposals ‘death by a thousand cuts’.

He said: “What we really want to get across to the people of Sheffield is that this is the dismantling of the system. This is death by a thousand cuts.

“I had the opportunity to go into private practice but I came into publicly funded work. After 27 years I just feel incredibly sad.

“We have the best legal system in the world and we are concerned this is a manifesto for injustice and miscarriages of justice.”

Mark George QC said lawyers working on the most serious cases such as fraud trials were facing cuts in their fees of up to 30 per cent, due to come into force in December.

He said it would mean less experienced lawyers who were ‘out of their depth’ taking on serious cases.

“It’s an attack on the rule of law,” he added.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling says the proposals, which have been put out to a consultation, will deliver savings of £220m per year by 2018/19.

Barrister Paul Prior, who organised the protest, said: “I’m really pleased with the turnout. This is barristers and solicitors standing together united against the Lord Chancellor.”