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Merseyside lawyers join walk-out over Legal Aid cutbacks
Updated 11:53am Friday 7th March 2014 in News
Lawyers from Merseyside have joined thousands of colleagues in protest at legal aid cuts as barristers stage a second walkout at courts in England and Wales.
Barristers have chosen not to attend proceedings at major crown courts in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool, among others.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling is pressing ahead with fee cuts for barristers and solicitors as part of an attempt to slash £220m from the legal aid budget by 2018/19.
Many barristers attended a protest outside Parliament today dressed in full wig and gowns.
Banners were raised reading "Access to Justice RIP" and "Save Legal Aid".
Nigel Lithman, chairman of the Criminal Bar Association said: "If these cuts are not addressed, then the British justice system, which is held in such high esteem around the world, will cease to exist as we know it and the British public can no longer expect true justice to be delivered.
"It is simply expected that the criminal Bar will accept cuts unparalleled in any other sector of the wider community.
"The Bar cannot and will not accept these unnecessary and crippling cuts and will continue to fiercely oppose them at every opportunity until our reasonable requests have been met with the appropriate levels of consideration."
Barristers refused to attend court for the first time in January, causing widespread disruption to criminal justice.
The Ministry of Justice has previously said it is vital to scale back "one of the most expensive" legal aid schemes in the world and insisted it will remain ''very generous'' even after the changes.
A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: "At around £2 billion a year, we have one of the most expensive legal aid systems in the world.
"As everybody knows, this Government is dealing with an unprecedented financial challenge and the Ministry has no choice but to significantly reduce the amount of money it spends every year.
"We have spoken at length over the past year with solicitors and barristers about the reforms and our final plans reflect many of the changes they asked for.
"It does mean fee reductions, but it also includes a series of measures to ease their effect on lawyers.”
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