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CBA prepares to issue ballot papers on legal aid action

By Monidipa Fouzder >>

(22 February 2022)

Ballot papers will be sent to criminal barristers next week spelling out action over the government’s refusal to expedite its timetable on criminal legal aid reform.

The Criminal Bar Association gave lord chancellor Dominic Raab until 14 February to commit to substantially increase legal aid funding after barristers who responded to a survey in January signalled their willingness to step up action if the government did not respond faster to Sir Christopher Bellamy’s criminal legal aid review.

In the days leading up to the deadline, ministers said rushing reform could open the government up to legal challenges, effectively telling practitioners they would not be giving the undertakings being sought. 

Yesterday, CBA chair Jo Sidhu QC said the government’s overall timetable takes practitioners to October, ‘with no prospect of an increase in fees until 2024’.

‘Neither criminal barristers nor criminal solicitors can afford to wait that long,’ he added. ‘We have already paid a heavy price in attrition from our ranks for the inexcusable failure to deal post-haste with the impact of diminishing real incomes, and we are both facing decimation if critical intervention is not forthcoming. Never has unity of purpose been stronger between the two sides of the profession.’

Members will receive a ballot paper next Monday offering a ‘clear choice’.

Sidhu said: ‘If you elect to take action, you will know exactly what action is proposed, when it is to begin and what government must deliver for us to avoid the serious disruption that will otherwise result.’

Shortly after the CBA announced it would be balloting members, justice minister James Cartlidge said he would be meeting the association this week.

(Courtesy: The Law Society Gazette)