BARRISTERS and solicitors staged a street protest yesterday to fight what they called “lazy, ill-judged and socially regressive” cuts in legal aid.
About 25 members of the legal profession gathered outside Oxford Crown Court in St Aldate’s during a demonstration in the morning which resulted in most criminal cases being moved to the afternoon.
They joined thousands of others across the UK in protesting at the Government’s plans. The coalition wants to cut legal fees by as much as 30 per cent in the longest and most complex cases, as part of a bid to shave £220m off the UK’s annual £2bn legal aid budget by 2018/19.
Reading a prepared statement from the Criminal Bar Association, which organised the national protest, Nicholas Syfret QC said the effect of the cuts would be “that the guilty go unpunished and the innocent are wrongly convicted”.
He said: “Raiding the legal aid fund is a lazy way of saving money.
“It is driving the best from our profession – the Attorney General himself acknowledges that fees are already so low that talent is leaving and fewer are coming forward to replace them.
“That will in time reduce the quality of our judges.
“In the end it will have poor consequences for the most vulnerable, including victims of crime and witnesses.
“It is also socially divisive.”