Barristers protested outside St Albans Crown Court today against government cuts to legal aid.
The half-day walkout, called by the Criminal Bar Association, is the first in the history of an organisation which can trace its roots back to the 13th century.
Outside the court, the chairman of the Herts & Beds Bar Mess, Kerim Fuad QC, said “For the last six years, the government has slashed the Legal Aid Fund – it is about to do so again.
“In real terms, for barristers who do criminal legal aid work, that will amount to a 41 per cent cut.
“Every time it happens, the Criminal Justice System is weakened, and when the system is weakened, the eventual result is that the guilty go unpunished and the innocent are wrongly convicted.
“Legal Aid provision, like the NHS, is part of the welfare state.
“Years ago, people who knew the value of justice in our society designed a system which, like our NHS, meant that if you needed it, the state would not provide some second-rate service for the poor, but the best available help at a reasonable cost to the taxpayer.”
He said that raiding the Legal Aid fund was a lazy way of saving money that will, in time, reduce the quality of judges.
He added: “It will have poor consequences for the most vulnerable, including victims of crime and witnesses.
“ It is socially divisive. It has a disproportionate impact on those who want to work in the profession who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. It is not a policy that has been thought through, it is unnecessary.”