Image: The Bar Council via Twitter

Hundreds of lawyers gathered outside the Ministry of Justice on Wednesday evening to support the strike action taken by criminal defence barristers since the beginning of the month.

So far, 95 chambers have declined publicly-funded cases following advice from the Criminal Bar Association. Ahead of the ‘Vigil for Justice’, Andrew Walker, QC, chair of the Bar Council, commented: “As a result of repeated cuts, our justice system has deteriorated over many years to breaking point, and we are now seeing the cumulative impact on practitioners seeking to operate within it – particularly the criminal and family Bar – on all others working within it, and on members of the public passing through it.”

The ‘Vigil for Justice’, was attended by workers in the legal industry, from solicitors and barristers to law centre volunteers. Armed with placards, they congregated outside the Ministry of Justice building in London, onto which the words ‘Ministry of Injustice’ were projected.

Joe Egan, president of the Law Society, joined the protesters after the organisation’s recent warning that ‘Criminal defence lawyers face extinction amid justice crisis’.

Walker added: “The need for this vigil is, in itself, a troubling reflection of the current state of affairs, in that those protesting against the cuts to legal aid and the wider justice system feel driven to take direct action to make their concerns heard.” However, he described the response from the legal sector as “heartening”. He concluded: “True and proper justice has no substitute; it is not an ‘optional extra’ for which funding requirements can be ignored otherwise the public will pay the ultimate price.”

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