Criminal barristers to vote on ‘uninterrupted strike action’
Move would be an escalation of alternating weeks of action adopted since late June
Criminal barristers in England and Wales will vote on whether to ramp up strike action in protest over government set fees for legal aid work, the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) has confirmed.
The CBA will ballot members over the coming weeks on whether to adopt “uninterrupted strike action”, an escalation of the current alternating weeks of action implemented since late June. The ballot closes on 21 August, and if the majority of members vote in favour of the move it will begin on 5 September.
The current programme of alternating weeks of strike action will continue in the interim, the CBA confirmed.
The representative body said “whether the majority view is to maintain the current level of action or, alternatively, to escalate it, any action will continue indefinitely unless and until there is a substantial positive movement from government that would warrant a review of the CBA’s position by way of a further ballot”.
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 has previously argued the increase in fees under the deal will “not be sufficient to retain enough criminal barristers to keep the wheels of justice turning”.
News of the possible escalation comes some four 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.
In June CBA members then agreed to stage a series of escalating walkouts from 27 June, with barristers encouraged to protest outside various court buildings across the country.
“The extensive disruption we have seen clearly demonstrates to the public and to Government that the continuing refusal of the Justice Secretary to negotiate a fair settlement with criminal barristers comes at a very heavy price”, the CBA said. “That price is measured by the thousands of pounds wasted each day that a courtroom sits idle or underused, and the shattered lives of complainants, defendants and witnesses who have already suffered unconscionable delays only to be told that their cases cannot proceed for want of a defence barrister.”
The Justice Secretary Dominic Raab previously described the action as “regrettable” and encouraged barristers to accept what he says equates to a “15% pay rise”.
For all the latest commercial awareness info, news and careers advice:Sign up to the Legal Cheek Newsletter
Legal Officer Lieutenant General Colonel Field Marshall
I’m fine with this.
Public screeching outside the High Court whilst holding Mulberry handbags, conducting online interviews from the latest iMac and endless time to Tweet about how they literally ‘can’t live’ on less than £30k a year will make the public think critically about whether they are really being told the truth.
Any criminal barristers willing to admit to using food banks or needed to choose between eating or paying their energy bills? Because that’s a reality for many in the UK.
Sword of truth
Yes that’s all lovely, but, what do you think about the facts?
– in their first 3 years of practice, criminal barristers earn a median income of £12,200, significantly less than minimum wage
– there has been an average 28% decrease in real incomes over the last 20 years.
– the number of barristers specialising in criminal law has shrunk by 25% in the last 5 years, and the speed at which criminal barristers leave legally aided work has increased in the last year
– 280 trials in the last quarter of 2021 were adjourned due to shortages of barristers
Denial is not a river in Egypt
So at long last the criminal bar has started shrinking to better reflect the massive reduction in serious crime and in heavy criminal hearings? Good show. Took long enough. Oversupply was always going to be an issue when the profession kept growing while demand was shrinking.
Sword of truth
Ah yes. Oversupply has caused hundreds of trials to be cancelled through lack of prosecutor or defender. I’ve got it. Thanks.
The backlog is to do with the supply of Courts and Judges, not the supply of advocates. Using less senior defence counsel, of which their is massive oversupply, would assist any alleged shortfall at the more senior end. Those expecting representation funded by taxpayers can only expect qualified representation not experienced and expensive representation.
How many criminal trials are at the High Court? Oh yeah – none. Good point though.
Actually there is and Court Room 38 is used as Nightingale Court for Inner London Crown Court.
Might interest you to know that the average RMT salary is £31,000; an cleaner who belongs to the RMT, working at the minimum wage, 8 hour days, 5 days a week, 46 week (who will, of course, have some holiday and probable pension provision) would earn £9.50 x 8 x 5 x 46 = £17, 480 pa. A junior barrister In their first 3 years of practice proper can expect now, at the criminal bar, something in the region of £12,200. They of course have no pension provision beyond the basic state pension, and, if they holiday, earn nothing. Oh yes, and by then a mortgage sized level of debt from student loans, course fees etc accrued over 5 years of study and training …