Despite being arranged on the same day as a Law Society Council meeting when the Law Society bigwigs could be expected to be in town the conference passed a motion of no confidence in chief executive Desmond Hudson and president Nicholas Fluck. The vote reflects the views of many legal aid solicitors who feel that the Law Society has badly let them down and failed to act in the interests of those members whose work and practices are under direct threat from the attacks on legal aid by Chris Grayling at the Ministry of Justice.
Those of us who care about the continued availability of legal aid not just in criminal cases but in all the areas of civil law from which it has now been withdrawn or restricted know that we will not win this fight by endless talking to ministers. The reaction of the MoJ to the 16,000 consultation responses showed total contempt for all our carefully worded arguments which completely demolished the case put up by the MoJ in support of further cut to legal aid provision. It is clear that trying to reason with the MoJ is, at least for the time being, a waste of time.
That is why on 6 th January many members of the criminal Bar will be taking direct action by withdrawing their labour for half a day. We are not doing so for the fun of it but because we cannot see any other way of attracting the attention of the MoJ to the strength of feeling that exists that their planned cuts will destroy large parts of the independent Bar with all that that entails for all those members of the public who are not wealthy and who rely on legal aid to give them their much vaunted “access to justice” the government used to purport to care about.
We know that many solicitors plan to take action alongside the Bar on 6 thJanuary. That is brilliant news and will show that by taking action together solicitors and the Bar have the power to win the fight to retain legal aid for all those who need it.