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VIDEO: Legal aid protest at Lewes Crown Court

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Barristers and solicitors from across Sussex joined an unprecedented nationwide ‘strike’ on Monday.

They gathered outside Lewes Crown Court to protest against legal aid cuts.

The Government plans to cut fees as part of a bid to slash £220m from the legal aid budget by 2018/19 - reducing them by as much as 30 per cent in the longest and most complex cases.

The walk-out was the first in the history of the criminal bar.

Criminal Bar Association chair Nigel Lithman said the ‘strike’ had the backing of almost every chambers and accused Justice Secretary Chris Grayling of “manipulating” official figures to falsely portray lawyers doing criminal aid work as high-earning “fat cats”.

Mr Lithman said: “You are going to see cases collapsing, as they have already started. There are cases of murders, murder trials, that have collapsed because of them being inadequately prosecuted - that leads to enormous concerns for the victim’s family.

“Secondly, the barristers will not work, they have made that quite clear, at rates that take them, as one person was telling me of his earnings today, at around £13,000 as a taxable income. That is a somebody with a law degree and a masters in public international law - why would they work at those rates?”

Seventy members of the legal profession took part in the morning long demonstration in Lewes.

Julian Dale, the Head of Eastbourne-based Sussex Chambers, said that over the last six years legal aid rates had already been cut by 37 per cent in real terms and that a “tipping point” had been reached.

He warned that further cuts would make practice unviable for many barristers, who may be forced to leave the profession.

 

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