Grayling day protest

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Over one thousand barristers, solicitors and campaigners demonstrated outside Parliament on Friday 7 March in a second day of action against the Government’s Transforming legal aid proposals. Dubbed ‘Grayling Day’, the protest was organised by the Justice Alliance and supported by the Criminal Bar Association (CBA), the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association and Criminal Law Solicitors Association, and followed the half-day court stay-away on 6 January.

The rally gathered at Old Palace Yard opposite Westminster at 10am to hear speakers including Janis Sharp, mother of Gary McKinnon, Paddy Hill of the Birmingham Six and Shami Chakrabati of Liberty, who described it as a “day of shame” for the Lord Chancellor. Maxine Peake, who plays Martha Costello QC in the TV drama Silk, joined campaigners, as did civil and family practitioners.


An effigy of the Lord Chancellor was carried throughout the demonstration, which marched on to the Ministry of Justice and entered its Petty France offices. Barristers and solicitors then attended a meeting in Methodist Central Hall where speakers further denounced the legal aid reforms and proposed future action.

The impact of the full-day walk-out, which affected many trials and disrupted courts across England and Wales, was downplayed by the Ministry of Justice.

An HM Courts & Tribunals Service spokesperson said that “98% of magistrates’ courtrooms and 72% of Crown courtrooms sat as expected on the day. Fewer courts sat into the afternoon as cases were dealt with in the morning.” But the CBA said that the number of trials affected was significant.

Meanwhile, the CBA ‘no returns’ policy is now in effect. Criminal barristers who have chosen to adopt the policy will not accept a return from another member of the Bar on any legally aided defence case in the Crown Court. At least 200 cases have so far been returned, according to the CBA, with only three picked up.

Nigel Lithman QC, CBA Chairman, said: “If there is no change in MOJ policy after one month of accepting no returns, the criminal Bar will consider taking steps escalating in seriousness in response to the Government’s intransigence.” He added:

“What is done will always be a matter for individual members of the CBA.”

The CBA ‘no returns’ protocol, together with guidance issued by the Lord Chief Justice “to assist judges in managing the consequences” of the action, is available on www.criminalbar.com.

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