Sunderland solicitors stage walk-out over legal aid cuts

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LAWYERS in Sunderland arranged a walk out today in a fresh action over proposed cuts to legal aid.

The Government shake-up is an attempt to cut the £2billion budget of what it calls one of the world’s most expensive legal systems.

Scores of Wearside solicitors were expected to boycott Sunderland Magistrates’ Court today.

Lawyers will withdraw from criminal cases in magistrates’ and crown courts across the country.

Urgent cases from Sunderland were scheduled to be dealt with at South Tyneside’s court.

It is the profession’s second co-ordinated action, after last month they refused to attend hearings for a morning.

The walkout is in protest at the decision by the justice secretary, Chris Grayling, to make savings of £220million from the annual criminal legal aid budget. Some fees will be cut by up to 30 per cent.

Possible changes to financial help in criminal law include fee cuts of up to 17.5 per cent, price-competitive tendering for legal aid contracts, and clients no longer being able to choose their own defence lawyer.

The Ministry of Justice is due to give its final response to its consultation on cutting legal aid later this month.