St Albans Crown Court disrupted by walk-out
PUBLISHED: 16:51 06 January 2014 | UPDATED: 16:51 06 January 2014
A barrister who has instructed in high profile court cases such as the murder of Damilola Taylor and the Exeter bomber joined this morning’s (Monday) protest in St Albans against legal aid fee cuts.
Kerim Fuad QC, chairman of the Herts and Beds Bar Mess, was one of about 30 independent criminal barristers, supported by local solicitors, to take part in the half-day walk-out at St Albans Crown Court, Bricket Road.
Scores of protests were held across the UK in an unprecedented action to show the government that the criminal justice system cannot withstand any more funding cuts.
Kerim said it was the first time in 800 years of British legal history that such a mass walk-out had been held.
Justice secretary Chris Grayling has proposed slashing legal aid fees by up to 30 per cent.
But Kerim warned that such a drastic cut would affect those wrongly accused of crime, those training alongside barristers, and people who could not otherwise afford legal advice.
He said: “This is going back to a hundred years ago, when only the rich could become criminal barristers. You won’t have the diversity we have now. This is why we have to make a stand.
“Barristers aren’t fat cats. I fear some will leave the profession and people will not have high quality legal representation.”
Kerim warned that further protest action would be taken “if necessary”.
While most of his cases are heard at the Old Bailey, the QC also attends hearings at the St Albans Crown Court.
Among those protesting in the city centre was former St Albans MP Kerry Pollard who said he “totally agreed with the concept of legal aid”.
He added: “If there are cuts to it, crimes will go unpunished and people won’t get justice. This is a backward step and it is outrageous.
“I wanted to show my support as this is an attack on our democratic rights for a fair justice system for all.
“It is the Government’s duty to protect vulnerable people in the community. You shouldn’t have to be Charles Saatchi to see justice is done.”
A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said that just two of six hearings scheduled for this morning in St Albans Crown Court had been postponed as a result of the walk-out.