Barristers have a few hours left to have their say on criminal legal aid reform.
The Ministry of Justice has had a continuing feud with the legal sector over a review by Sir Christopher Bellamy, which recommended at least £135 million a year extra in the annual legal aid budget and concluded there was no scope for further delay.
Closing at midnight, the Criminal Bar Association’s ballot, asks members to choose between ‘no returns’ or ‘no action’.
Voters can choose to halt all ‘returns’ under the advocates graduated fee scheme from 11 April unless the government agrees to a series of steps. This includes increasing remuneration under the AGFS by 25% per year for claims submitted on or after 11 April.
Or they can vote for no action and wait for the government to respond to the independent criminal legal aid review. This would be followed by a consultation ending in June, and then any necessary statutory instruments being implemented before September ends.
CBA chair Jo Sidhu QC said: “The decisions that we make now will determine our future for years to come. Decades of neglect and the exploitation of our time and labour have left our advocates exhausted and demoralised. Yet each day, we still give everything we have left to serve the public in every corner of our jurisdiction…
‘It is therefore for government to recognise our value in a way that re-builds confidence in the profession and arrests the alarming egression of criminal barristers from legal aid work.”