THE wheels of justice ground almost to a halt in Burton today, as solicitors went on strike against cuts to the legal aid budget.
Defence solicitors who normally represent clients at Burton Magistrates’ Court were mostly absent, leaving just two duty solicitors in the Horninglow Road court house. The vast majority of cases remained unheard as a result, with most pushed back to next week, when the defendants would have the benefit of legal representation.
Simon Dean, who was acting as duty solicitor for the day, along with Mark Moore, was forced to ask magistrates to adjourn most of the cases which came before them, as the solicitors who usually act on their behalf were taking part in industrial action.
He told the Mail: “It’s ridiculous, but what can we do?
“They’re paying us peanuts for legal aid now.
“The vast majority of cases are having to be adjourned because of the cuts.”
At the start of each case which was adjourned – which included several people charged with domestic violence – he said he thought it would be ‘ethically wrong’ to defend a client who was represented by another firm.
Two cases which had to be put back were that of Dale Rowland, 21, of Fulham Road, Mackworth, who is charged with assaulting Emily Allen in Burton, and Keiran Cowley, 25, of James Court, Burton, who is charged with assaulting Kirsty Howlett in the town.
Solicitors and barristers across the UK downed tools to protest against the cuts yesterday.
Members of the legal profession claim they will be unable to do their jobs properly as fees are slashed in an effort to save £220 million from the £2 billion annual cost of legal aid.
But the Government claims it is essential to make cuts to the system which has been described as ‘expensive.’
It was the second walk out which had been staged since the cuts were announced, and saw thousands of lawyers march on Westminster.