Courts in Northampton may run with some disruption tomorrow as solicitors take a training day in response to legal aid cuts.
Solicitors have said that they will not be appearing in court tomorrow, though they will not be taking part in any official strikes and courts will open as usual.
Steven Moore & Co solicitor, Clare Fitzpatrick, said she was concerned that Government cuits to legal aid fees and the introduction of a two-tier solicitor contract structure will adversely affect the access to quality legal advice for those on low to medium incomes as solicitors leave criminal law.
“Those who remain will be seeking to maximise their profits which will inevitably lead to a drop in quality of representation as they try to do more work for less money,” she said.
“Everyone should care about the devastating effect of these changes to the criminal justice system because while they may not be criminals it is all too easy for those who have done nothing wrong to find themselves caught up in the system, whether through false allegations (e.g. teachers, nurses or doctors) or as a result of a car accident or through a misunderstanding, and they would then want the best possible representation.”
Some Northampton solicitors and members of the Justice Alliance joined probation officers today on a march in the town centre against the privatisaion of probation services.
One Justice Alliance spokesperson said: “The vulnerable, and even innocent, have the most to fear from these cuts as it will lead to more self-representation in court.
“Not only will this slow court procedures down, making the system inefficient, but it will result in a lot of innocent people making guilty pleas because they do not have sufficient information about their rights and entitlements and simply don’t know what else to do.”
Following a temporary agreement between barristers and the Government, tomorrow’s protest in the capital, which will take place on Justice Secretary Chris Grayling’s birthday, will mainly involve protesters on the behalf of UK solicitors.
One spokesperson for a Northampton law firm said: “Courts may run slower than usual tomorrow but this is just a preview of what is likely to happen if Government cuts to legal aid continue.”