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Kent lawyers react with anger and dismay at government 'U' turn on Legal Aid reforms

By Paul Hooper

The Government today has made a 'U'-turn on its Legal Aid reforms by agreeing to suspend its proposed crown court cuts for a year.

But lawyers in Kent have reacted to this news with a mixture of anger, disquiet and dismay - many claiming it's an election ploy.

Top QC Oliver Saxby - chairman of the Kent Bar Mess, said the climbdown by the Ministry of Justice was merely "sticking a very small plaster over one problem while ignoring others".

Oliver Saxby QC, who will prosecute in M1 horror crash trial

The Leader of the 'Criminal Law Team' at the London barristers' chambers 6 Pump Court - added: "What we have been fighting for more than 18 months has been the future of the Criminal Justice System - not just 'barristers' fees'.

"Crown Court advocacy - in fact conducted by barristers and solicitors - is probably the most eye-catching element.

"But in reality the system is made up of a number of component parts every one of which needs to be functioning at a minimum level for the system to work."

Oliver Saxby QC leads barristers in a strike outside Maidstone Crown Court in January

Mr Saxby said the suspension of cuts - "coincidentally, post election" - was "placing a very small sticking plaster over one problem whilst ignoring others."

He warned: "The situation remains critical. The cuts to solicitors are swingeing.

"The situation remains critical. The cuts to solicitors are swingeing" - Oliver Saxby QC

"The viability of the sort of efficient, good quality, local firms that keep the system going is very much in jeopardy and - as a Mess and as a Chambers - we support their opposition to what seem to be the Government's continued plans.

"Plainly, what the South Eastern Circuit and the CBA have achieved is remarkable - and a testament to their hard work and skill", the QC said.

"Those who conduct Crown Court advocacy should be - and are - very grateful."

Kent's top barristers - who have recently taken part in two days of action -are now planning to meet to discuss the latest Government announcement next Thursday.

The county's solicitors are also angry about the proposals and are planning to demonstrate outside Canterbury magistrates Court next week.

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