NI barristers quit criminal cases over further legal aid cuts

By Neil Logan

Barristers in Northern Ireland have announced that they will not take on any new criminal cases funded by legal aid in protest at the latest proposed cuts in payments by Justice Minister David Ford.

The Criminal Bar Association confirmed the move in response to what would be the third set of legal aid cuts in 10 years, with fees dropping between 45 to 65 per cent. Chairman Gavan Duffy QC said that barristers in Northern Ireland are committed to a high standard of representation to those people involved in "serious and complex criminal cases", but that the proposed legal aid cuts would "dilute the quality of representation available to some of the most vulnerable members of society and to the victims of crime".

Mr Duffy went on to describe the extent of the proposed legal aid cuts as "substantial and unjustified", and added that they amounted to a cut of nearly 50 per cent on fee levels set in 2006 by the Department of Justice.

Many criminal law solicitors in Northern Ireland have taken a similar stance over the proposed legal aid cuts, and the Law Society has joined with the bar council to bring legal action against David Ford in an attempt to overturn the latest legal aid reforms.