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We expect the membership to reject the levels of funding offered in the new scheme ... The last thing we want to do is not to work or to take action ... However, everything is at breaking point at once, including us.” The barristers’ immediate objection is to changes to the advocates’ graduated fee scheme (AGFS), which barristers claim represents a further cut to their income. Rafferty added: “The levels of remuneration are unacceptable for many kinds of complex, important cases. There is no payment at all for disclosure or the vast quantities of evidence likely to be served on us in cases going forward.” Solicitors and barristers last took direct action against cuts to legal aid in 2014 and 2015 , boycotting some hearings. Resentment among legal professionals has resurfaced as the Ministry of Justice’s budget has been progressively squeezed. The MoJ has suffered the deepest cuts of any Whitehall department since 2010 and closed more than 220 courts across England and Wales. No decision has yet been taken on what form the protests will take if the ballot supports action. In the past lawyers have adopted a policy of “no returns” – refusing to cover hearings when other barristers cannot appear. Others have suggested refusing to accept work under the new AGFS payment scheme. The Law Society is already fighting legal action over cuts to fees paid to defence solicitors for reading criminal evidence, warning that the changes will lead to more miscarriages of justice. The body, which represents solicitors in England and Wales, estimates it will reduce payments by 5-6% for crown court trials.

For the original version including any supplementary images or video, visit https://www.theguardian.com/law/2018/mar/26/barristers-threaten-walkout-over-legal-aid-payment-changes-england

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