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Barristers stage protest outside Southwark Crown Court

Lawyers protesting against Government reforms to the legal aid system gathered outside Southwark Crown Court on Monday as barristers staged an unprecedented walk-out by refusing to take part in cases due to be heard that morning.

Barristers stage protest outside Southwark Crown Court
Nigel Lithman QC
Nigel Lithman QC speaking to the press on the steps of the court

The protestors insist that their concern is about access to justice rather than simply the impact of the changes on lawyers' income.

"The protest on Monday is the first in the history of the criminal bar," said Nigel Lithman QC, chairman of the Criminal Bar Association.

"That it is necessary in order to try and prevent the slide of the Criminal Justice system into chaos and the Criminal Bar into oblivion make it a sad day.

"Those taking the action wish to send a message to the Lord Chancellor that this, along with cuts to their pay, is unacceptable."

Justice secretary Chris Grayling said last week: "This Government is on the side of people who work hard and want to get on in life. We have an excellent tradition of legal aid and one of the best legal professions in the world. But we cannot close our eyes to the fact legal aid is costing too much."

He added: "Even after these reforms, we will still have one of the most generous legal aid systems in the world. I want to ensure the limited money we have is concentrated on those cases and people who need it most."

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