Belfast Telegraph

Lawyers return to work after pay strike

By John Mulgrew

Lawyers on strike over cuts to their legal fees are able to return to work with “immediate effect” after a four-month long dispute.

According to the Criminal Bar, its members could resume “normal working” in the Northern Ireland Crown Court immediately.

The announcement comes after the Belfast Telegraph revealed that the bitter stand-off between the Justice Minister and criminal lawyers in Northern Ireland had ended.

Adrian Colton, chairman of the Bar Council, said he recognised a change was needed in the legal aid system in “hard financial times” but defended the right to “raise very serious concerns about the outworking of the Department of Justice proposals”.

The comments follow a statement from the Law Society yesterday which confirmed that enough progress had been made in talks with the Department of Justice to allow its members to continue to work on legal aid cases.

The council met yesterday to discuss the ongoing dispute involving some of its members.

Criminal lawyers began striking in March after legal aid payments were cut to bring spending in line with England and Wales. Fees here were 20% higher.

Speaking following the meeting the president of the Law Society, Brian Speers, said: “We have|always maintained that a resolution to the dispute could only be found through proactive engagement and constructive dialogue involving all parties.

“We are hopeful that members will begin returning to work soon.”

Justice Minister David Ford welcomed the announcement.

“I very much welcome this|afternoon's statement from the Law Society that it expects that criminal defence lawyers are to|return to normal working on legal aid cases shortly.” He added it was “good news” for those seeking|access to justice in Northern|Ireland.

There were over 500 people facing criminal charges without legal representation due to the strike.

Belfast Telegraph

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