In the previous chapter we assessed how criminal justice issues played out in south Wales as the location of our study, thus outlining the context of the experiences at the heart of this book. The chapter detailed defining features of the space and the time of this location, such as the relatively small scale of the criminal cases and the impact of austerity on an issue such as court closures. In this chapter we flesh out the specific criminal justice experiences that occurred in south Wales, considering the pressures that practitioners faced in their practice. These pressures frame the experience of practitioners and, in turn, shape the experience of the accused.
Criminal legal aid is subject to lower remuneration levels than other areas of legal practice; criminal legal aid lawyers have typically been viewed as ‘low status’ compared with other lawyers (Sommerlad, 1995; 1996; 2001).1 Those practising in legally aided criminal defence work are becoming increasingly deprofessionalized in relation to the tasks that they must undertake and their role in relation to the court. They are required to engage with increasingly formulaic processes; restrictions are placed on the initiative that they may seek to take. Their remuneration has stagnated and been reduced; the financial value placed on their work is limited. Within these circumstances, legally aided criminal defence lawyers have been labelled ‘alienated workers’ (Newman, 2016b; Newman and Welsh, 2019); their diminishing profession attracts little wider respect and internalizes negative messages. Alienated workers may feel powerless and time deprived, making their work inherently more stressful (Boni-Le Goff et al, 2020).
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