Criminal barristers refused to attend Chester courts on Monday (January 6) during one of the busiest days of the year.

Between 10-2pm barristers and solicitors across England and Wales took part in the day of ‘mass non-attendance’ in protest at government plans to slash legal aid fees by up to 30%.

Organised by the  Criminal Bar Association (CBA) the half-day walk-out took place during the first normal working day of 2014 and one of the busiest days at Chester Crown Court.

A statement is read by barristers Anna Pope (left) and Duncan Bould (right)
A statement is read by barristers Anna Pope (left) and Duncan Bould (right)
 

But a member of staff at the court’s listing office said all cases listed for hearings, trials and sentencing on Monday would still appear before the court.

In a statement from the (CBA), barrister Owen Edwards, said: “We became barristers because we believe in justice.

“Our system exists to ensure that the guilty are punished and that the innocent are acquitted.

“This can only be achieved by ensuring that the system is properly funded and that the brightest and best are prepared to undertake publicly funded work.”

“We have repeatedly warned the UK Government about their proposed course and of its consequences.

“We wish to bring to public attention that which is being done in your name. We the Bar of England and Wales will not sit idly by and watch its destruction. We will do what we have been trained to do: fight for justice; our fight now is to save Justice for this generation and generations to follow.”

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But a spokesperson for the Crown Prosecution Service said prosecutions would still go ahead during the day of action, saying: “It is important that prosecutions are not disrupted and we expect any court business listed for the morning of January 6 to be prosecuted by the instructed advocate in accordance with their professional obligations.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said: “We entirely agree lawyers should be paid fairly for their work, and believe our proposals do just that.

“We also agree legal aid is a vital part of our justice system - that's why we have to find efficiencies to ensure it remains sustainable and available to those most in need of a lawyer. Agencies involved in the criminal justice system will take steps to minimise any upset court disruption could cause for victims and witnesses involved in trials.”