Although criminal barristers voted last week to halt their action against planned cuts to the legal aid budget, solicitors who conduct criminal defence and prosecution work are persevering with their mass walkouts, their third direct action this year.
Solicitors will take industrial action tomorrow (April 1) over Ministry of Justice (MoJ) plans to cut £215m from the department’s annual budget for legal aid and will also support probation officers, who are walking out for 24 hours today (March 31) at noon.
The probation officers, who work closely with solicitors in criminal cases, had planned their strike some time ago over the Government’s plans to outsource 70 per cent of probation work, in what the National Association of Probation Officers (NAPO) calls “a dangerous social experiment”. It will be the second 24-hour strike by probation officers since the plans were announced.
The London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association has already said that what is happening to probation and criminal legal aid belongs to “the same sorry story”, which is why criminal defence solicitors are standing by their NAPO colleagues and will join them in their action.
Solicitors are supported in their action by the Justice Alliance, a coalition of charities and community groups, which are all concerned that imminent changes to judicial review will have a “chilling effect” on the ability of outside parties to challenge poor government decisions.
Both parties will demonstrate outside courts today and tomorrow, with the largest one today being held outside Westminster magistrates court; tomorrow the main rally will be held outside Parliament followed by a march on the MoJ, coinciding with the birthday of the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling.
Mackrell Turner Garrett Solicitors in London
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