Solicitors boycott courts over plans to cut legal aid budget

Helen Korfanty was among solicitors who boycotted court in protest to cuts to legal aid
Helen Korfanty was among solicitors who boycotted court in protest to cuts to legal aid
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Court cases were disrupted on Monday as barristers and solicitors went on strike over plans to cut legal aid.

Solicitors from Dale and Dunphy in Thetford were among those who decided to boycott the courts in protest to the government’s plans to cut the legal aid budget by £220million.

Solicitor Helen Corfanty, who stayed away from Bury Magistrates court until the afternoon, said: “The Government is making cut backs but we have experienced them since 1996 - before everyone else had a recession.

“We have not had a rise in rates since 1996 and the government had just brought in an eight percent cut.

“What we are asking is for the Government to not cut us any more.

“We wanted to show them what it is like without us.”

Legal aid costs taxpayers about £2bn every year with half going towards criminal cases.

The government’s proposals to cut legal aid are being phased in from April.

Sally Dale, partner at from Dale and Dunphy, said the Government’s plans to cut legal aid and the number of practices who could apply for it would be damaging to the court system.

She said: “Our solicitors took the decision to be unavailable for work in support of the national action taken by barristers.

“In the future there will be huge deserts without legal representation, especially in rural areas, and huge delays in the criminal justice system because there will be fewer solicitors to take care of business at court.

“Local services which have always been very important will be dissipated yet further.”

Mrs Korfanty said the government’s argument that the UK’s legal system was more generous than other European nations did not hold much weight.

She said: “They don’t realise we have a more combative legal system here rather than inquisitional.

“The police here do not investigate the whole case so leave it to us defence lawyers to do the defence work.

“If we don’t get the chance to do our job properly that is when people get wrongly convicted. The firm I work for are very worried and don’t know whether they can employ me next year.

“I believe it is important for the government to see the effect that the absence of defence lawyers has on the system, even if it is for only a few hours.”