Walkouts from next Monday
Barristers across England and Wales will down tools next week as the row between the criminal bar and the government over legal aid fees steps up a gear.
The Criminal Bar Association (CBA) confirmed this morning that 81.5% of the 2,055 members who voted had agreed to stage a series of escalating walkouts from next Monday. Barristers are also being encouraged to stage protests outside various court buildings across the country.
The news comes some two months after the criminal bar first implemented a ‘no returns’ policy — barristers agree not to accept cases that are returned by colleagues who have a diary clash — over their longstanding concerns with legal aid funding.
Although the government said it had accepted an independent review’s recommendation to thrown an extra £135 million a year into the criminal legal aid sector, the CBA argues the increase in fees under the deal will “not be sufficient to retain enough criminal barristers to keep the wheels of justice turning”.
The industrial action will initially see criminal barristers down tools for two days from next Monday (27- 28 June), with further strikes planned for the following weeks. If no deal is reached, the CBA says the strike action will escalate with one additional day each week until week four, at which point the strike action would take place on alternating weeks.
In a statement, CBA chair Jo Sidhu QC and vice-president Kirsty Brimelow QC said:
“This extraordinary commitment to the democratic process reflects a recognition amongst criminal barristers at all levels of call and across all Circuits that what is at stake is the survival of a profession of specialist criminal advocates and of the criminal justice system which depends so critically upon their labour.”
The continued: “Without immediate action to halt the exodus of criminal barristers from our ranks, the record backlog that has crippled our courts will continue to inflict misery upon victims and defendants alike, and the public will be betrayed.”