Barristers protest outside St Albans Crown Court over legal aid cuts (From St Albans & Harpenden Review)
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Barristers protest outside St Albans Crown Court over legal aid cuts
Barristers from Hertfordshire protested outside St Albans Crown Court this morning against government cuts to legal aid.
The half-day walkout by Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire barristers was called by the Criminal Bar Association and is the first in its history which stretches back to the thirteenth century.
Outside the court, the Chairman of the Hertfordshire & Bedfordshire Bar Mess, Kerim Fuad QC, said: "For the last six years, the government has slashed the Legal Aid Fund - it is about to do so again. In real terms, for barristers who do criminal legal aid work, that will amount to a 41 per cent cut.
"Every time it happens, the Criminal Justice System is weakened. And when the system is weakened, the eventual result is that the guilty go unpunished and the innocent are wrongly convicted.
"Legal Aid provision, like the NHS, is part of the welfare state. Years ago, people who knew the value of justice in our society designed a system which, like our NHS, meant that if you needed it, the state would not provide some second-rate service for the poor, but the best available help at a reasonable cost to the taxpayer."
He said that raiding the Legal Aid fund was a lazy way of saving money that will, in time, reduce the quality of judges.
Mr Fuad added: "In the end, it will have poor consequences for the most vulnerable, including victims of crime and witnesses. It is socially divisive. It has a disproportionate impact on those who want to work in the profession who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. It discourages diversity.
"It is not a policy that has been thought through, it is unnecessary."
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