Central Chambers remains strongly supportive of solicitors in their fight against the Ministry of Justice in relation to the cuts in their fees and the changes to their contracts. We take the view that such changes fundamentally reduce access to justice in real terms.
These Chambers call upon all criminal barristers, particularly those on the Northern Circuit, to join us in pledging that, if the Bar agrees together or if the Northern Circuit’s barristers agree:
1. No member of their set will accept instructions for magistrates’ court work on days of action, if instructed after that date has been made public.
2. Members of Chambers should actively encourage solicitors to withdraw instructions from the Bar where those instructions were accepted before the date became public.
3. No member will accept instructions from any magistrates’ court to represent a defendant who is without representation due to solicitors’ action.
4. Members are aware that should solicitors choose not to attend at police stations, save for under the duty contract, or not to apply for new representation orders at the cut rates in force since 20th March 2014 that this will have an adverse effect upon the Bar. Therefore, for the avoidance of doubt, Counsel encourage solicitors to take that action as a collective body and fully supports them in it.
We hereby pledge that if members of sets on the Northern Circuit similarly pledge then we will undertake the above steps. Given the out-pouring of anger from the Bar on social media platforms, we expect unanimous agreement from the Bar throughout the country.
In addition, we would like to offer our encouragement to solicitors to take stringent action in fighting for their cause. One thing is for sure: the Lord Chancellor and MoJ finally came to the table with the Bar only after the Bar’s action forced them to do so. Solicitors must now apply the same pressure.
As we are still under no obligation to cover the returns of others, we pledge a return to the “No Returns” policy, as before 27th March 2014, in the event that the Criminal Bar decides in favour of this action in the forthcoming vote. We recognise the extreme hardship that this causes for the junior Bar.
Finally, to the next Lord Chancellor, know this; the criminal Bar demonstrates day-after-day that this is not over and that cuts will be fought. There is now every chance that you will not be “inheriting cuts” in fees and in access to justice and so, if you chose to impose them when in your new role, expect the unified professions to bite far, far harder than they bit Chris Grayling.