Claim court defendants ‘bullied’ during strike by solicitors

Bridlington Magistrates' Court.
Bridlington Magistrates' Court.

People accused of crimininal offences were bullied into going ahead with their court cases without legal representation during a strike by solicitors, it has been claimed.

At Bridlington Magistrates Court on Wednesday 22 May some defendants were left without solicitors, some of whom were taking part in a nationwide training day surrounding proposed cuts to legal aid.

A spokesperson for Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service, said: “It was business as usual and there was minimal disruption.”

But a source at Bridlington magistrates’ court, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “I thought people were being bullied into making a plea when they quite clearly said they wanted to speak to a solicitor.

“When someone is arrested by the police they have got a right to a solicitor.

“It was very unsavoury.”

Defence solicitors did not attend court due to a training day held in London over the Government’s proposed changes to price competitive tendering for criminal legal aid work.

Victoria Lancaster, of Lancaster’s Solicitors, Bridlington, said: “It will remove the right of the individual to chose a lawyer to represent them bearing in mind they they are not a criminal until they are convicted, they are a person.

“I am concerned that under the new proposals a person’s right to choose their own lawyer will go. Instead an accused person will be allocated the next lawyer on the list who may be travelling from miles away.

“Competition, which maintains standards, will go. No one will have a lawyer who knows their history and problems. People acquitted often only reach that position because they have had quality legal representation from legal aid.

“Most importantly,the proposal takes away the fundamental right to free independent legal advice from a citizen’s chosen lawyer. This is very dangerous for all of us.

“We are dealing with people not numbers on a page. The cuts are proposed as part of the Ministry for Justice’s money saving strategy.”