COURT cases are being delayed indefinitely due to action being taken by lawyers protesting against proposed Government changes to the legal aid system.
In one example at Truro Crown Court, the trial of Aimee Rowley was put off, with no set date, because her barrister refused to attend or take on the work of colleagues.
Judge Christopher Harvey Clark, QC, said that in normal circumstances her barrister would have passed the defence’s case to another member of the criminal bar and it would have been able to continue.
He said: “The criminal bar however is protesting against the Government’s proposed cuts to legal aid.
“These cuts may effectively mean that some, if not many, very competent barristers and solicitors doing criminal advocacy will be forced to give up their practice and seek other employment.”
A day of industrial action on March 7, when barristers and solicitors refused to attend hearings, caused disruption at Truro courts.
Legal aid fees for the most complex cases have already been cut by 30 per cent from December last year.
An initial reduction of 8.75 per cent will apply to new cases starting on or after March 20. There will be another 8.75 per cent reduction in 12 months’ time.
Barristers were staging a second one-day walk-out on ThursdayMAR13 as part of an unprecedented national campaign.
On that day, Rowley, 24, of Tregundy Road, Perranporth, was due to stand trial accused of a racially aggravated assault by beating on Karamjit Singh Mudhar and one charge of assault by beating on Parveen Kumar on August 21, last year.
She was granted bail as Judge Harvey Clark said the case would be relisted for later in the year but could not set a date.
“The pressure on listing in this and other courts is such that trials are being delayed very considerably,” he said.
“Further adjournments in situations such as this will only aggravate a very serious problem facing the administration of justice in this county and elsewhere.
“It means a longer delay than justice would suggest should be the case.”