Criminal barristers vote in favour of full-blown strike as row over legal aid fees escalates

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From 5 September

CBA chair Jo Sidhu QC addresses crowds outside the Central Criminal Court during as strike in June – Credit @jonblackbsb

Criminal barristers across England and Wales have voted in favour of uninterrupted strike action in protest over government set fees for legal aid work.

The Criminal Bar Association (CBA) confirmed this morning that nearly 80% of the 2,055 members who voted had agreed down tools on an indefinite basis from Monday 5th September. This is major escalation of the current programme alternating weeks of strike action implemented since late June. This will continue in the interim.

Reacting to the development, Vakas Hussain, a barrister at 187 Fleet Street Chambers, wrote: This is not a decision the profession has taken lightly. We have been forced into this by an incompetent and unrepentant government which has no respect for the rule of law or the justice system. So proud of all my colleagues who are standing tall to defend something so precious.”

Meanwhile, Lola-Rose Avery, a barrister at 3PB Barristers, commented: “Huge and brave decision for the Criminal Bar to down tools entirely. Beyond sad that it’s necessary. Solidarity as always.”

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News of the 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.

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”.

Commenting on the move, justice minister Sarah Dines said: “This is an irresponsible decision that will only see more victims face further delays and distress. The escalation of strike action is wholly unjustified considering we are increasing criminal barristers’ fees by 15 percent, which will see the typical barrister earn around £7,000 more a year.”

Mark Fenhalls QC, chair of the Bar Council, said:

“It is a matter of deep regret to all of us that barristers have been driven as a last resort to take this further action. Members of the criminal Bar have been feeling mistreated, undervalued and overwhelmed for a decade or more.”

He added: “Politicians cannot be in any doubt as to the dire state of the criminal justice system. Ministers must look again immediately at ways to fund the backlog cases and bring a resolution to this difficult situation.”

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Angry B

Good! The government is a disgrace


Good for them

Good for them.



Good. I never understood why highly educated people who provide a vital service to this country should earn so little (in particular when acting for those who have limited financial means).

If fewer talented barristers work in criminal law the balance of power shifts even further in favour of the Goverment. I hope they succeed in their demands!



With criminal barrister colleagues.


Nurses Earn What Now????

So the are willing to deny the public ‘access to justice’ when their demands aren’t met????

They don’t really care about ‘access to justice’ – they care about their bank balances and how they are viewed by their old schoolmates.

‘Brave’ and ‘strong’ is the medic in Ukrainian wondering if Russian shelling is going to fall on him whilst he frantically works to save a child’s life.

These aren’t appropriate adjectives for London barristers whose biggest worry is whether they can shop at the next Mulberry sample sale. The hyperbole is embarrassing.



Get in the sea you huge wallop.



TBH, this is exactly why literally the only people supporting/vaguely caring about the strike are other barristers



So you support people who are working 70 hours a week being paid £20k a year?

Perhaps you support workhouses for the poor too?



That’s pretty much the reality for many working in retail, as teaching assistants or as manual labourers.

No barrister cares that a McDonald’s worker could earn less than £30k a year standing on their feet all day. So why exactly should the public care that barristers earn the same working out of listed Georgian townhouses?


Are you serious?


“Nobody is helping”.

Should read:

“Nobody is listening”.

If the market rate for criminal barristers is that low, that’s what we have to put up with.

I’d rather get on with trying to earn a living, personally.

Striking is not something that we can afford to do, and we have no public support.

This is going to damage barristers.

Take the 15% and run. It’s the best we’re going to get.


Criminal barrister

It’s not a market though, is it?

Based on that reasoning if the MoJ cut legal aid fees you’d simply shrug and take it. How odd.


True Dat

Your best bet to change the situation is to lobby and get into politics.

Screaming in the streets just leaves people screaming in the streets.






Nothing quite says “I’m only pretending to care” like going on strike and thereby denying access to justice to those you supposedly care about. I’m sure there’s many more hard working, diligent barristers out there doing their best not hunting for publicity like that rabble. Why don’t they just try working harder or taking another job if they aren’t good enough to make decent money at their first one?!



Always the Alans being really loud with their bad takes


Alan is a lizard

Work harder = get paid more??
Clearly you arent paid by the government.



If I work at a job and don’t get paid enough I can get another one to supplement my income therefore working harder and earning more. Do you need a diagram, or shall I let you have a lie down while your brain digests this complex information?


Alan is a lizard

Alan , thats not what you said. You said “work harder OR take another job”. I dont have to draw a diagram as its perfectly illustrated above. You can read i take it, or did nanny type out your words as you shouted them from your cot?


A Partridge

When are they supposed to do this other job if they’re often working till midnight (or later) during the week and most of the weekend? Do you think they get their coats at 5pm and go home to relax?



This is not going to end well for the CBA members. The public does not have sympathy for those turning down a 15% pay increase when the view of the public is that most of the cash spent really is going on criminals anyway.


silly fresher

it’s not their problem the public is minsinformed about legal aid is it though

why should they have to suck up a crappy salary because of the daily mail trite?


Patience Wearing Thin

You never hear of any barristers going to food banks or choosing between heating and eating this winter. Not a single one.

But that is reality for many in the UK. The mean salary in the UK is around £30k a year, whilst raising children and paying bills.

Why assume that anyone earning less than some arbitrary figure must necessarily be ‘ill-educated’? Barristers aren’t the only people to earn university degrees and undertake professional training. So why exactly do they they think that they deserve more public sympathy and attention than nurses, SEN teaching assistants or night shift workers?

They’ve co-opted the old tactics of miners, factory workers and nurses (who actually work dangerous jobs and earn far less than lawyers) and assume that by shouting loudly for long enough, they too can get whatever they want.



Whoever said it was either or? You know, it is possible to care about proper wages for nurses and also proper wages for criminal barristers.


Chancery Bazza

A whole load of criminal barristers earn below £30k, and also have to cover their expenses out of that since they are self-employed.

I suspect that fewer rely on foodbanks and similar, or just have rich partners or parents.

You need to realise that CRIMINAL barristers earn much much less than many other lawyers, and even criminal solicitors.

The rest of us do in fact eaen pretty damn well, but that’s not everyone.



Hear hear. The looney left millennial generation seems to think they can kick up a stink and get what they want like sulking brats. I didn’t see a single one of them saving lives during the pandemic like our NHS staff did, none of whom striked for a single day.



I think the point is not that criminal barristers shouldn’t be fairly compensated for the incredibly important work they do, but that wages need to rise across the board.

Let’s focus on working together and supporting each other. There are many groups the system isn’t working for and tearing each other down isn’t going to help.



Well one quite good reason to treat them differently is that in every single other sector or job in your list (a) they get paid minimum wage plus – many Barristers don’t, (b) they get statutory rights, Barristers don’t, and (c) In Scotland all the legal aid lawyers get paid way more than here so they can do it in their budget we can easily do it in ours.



I feel bad for crime barristers. Imagine doing all those hours and years of studying and getting a place at a competitive pupillage process only to be paid below minimum wage.



But they chose that. They weren’t trafficked into the job and neither were their brief fees changed from what they signed up to when they accepted pupillage.

It’s hard to feel sorry for people when they claim they are poor but protest in £400 horsehair wigs.



But they chose that. They weren’t trafficked into the job and neither were their brief fees changed from what they signed up to when they accepted pupillage.

It’s hard to feel sorry for people when they claim they are poor but protest in £400 horsehair wigs.


Look an idiot

They whole point it the fees have changed and in some cases been cut and in others havent increased in line with inflation.

Have you never had a pay rise in your life? They arent simple acts of benevolence.


The Whataboutery Is Strong With This One

My guess is that criminal barristers are less likely to be at a food bank because the bar is typically a profession that attracts privately educated upper middle class people with access to the bank of mum and dad.

Does that mean that criminal barristers, who have been underplayed for the past decade, shouldn’t get paid a decent living wage in the face of a cost of living crisis?

Nurses, teachers, etc all deserve a decent living wage. If you’re concerned that they too are criminally underpaid (pun unintended), tearing down criminal barristers is probably a misplaced effort.


Reality man

More idiots striking ! Making the country weaker !
If you don’t like your job, you all know where the door is ! !


One of the 20% of criminal barristers who just wants to get on with earning a living

This 👆



Some muppets are missing the point here. Being a good criminal barrister requires personal investment, and involves opportunity cost. We want good criminal barristers who are willing to act as public defenders because they correct the market failure – being that some people can’t afford representation – and they are a vital cog. Without them, criminal trials would be entirely one sided.

If we accept that people have the right to a defence (hopefully not controversial), then surely it follows that the people providing that defence should be remunerated properly, in an amount that is commensurate to their training, skill and application (and the fact they can influence whether someone is/isn’t deprived of their liberty by the state).

Otherwise, if we left it to the “market”, those who could not pay would be forced into self-representing, and that would lead to an entirely dystopian system of justice.

Scary how many people on this thread just want to throw vulnerable people to the mercy of the market, or expect criminal barristers to do the hard yards without getting paid for it.

Finally – does that mean nurses, rail workers, etc, should be paid more too? Absolutely it does.



“Criminal barristers in England and Wales vote to go on all-out strike”

Oh please, they can hardly contain themselves, just like the dock workers an the rail an airline workers, when they took off in a huff.
Britain is going to the dogs an is being manipulated by some very powerful people behind the scenes.

What with inflated energy cost as well as fuel hikes!
They seem determined to crush the British economy on the back of the Covid scamdemic!

Its all going to plan, nicely.
Mortgage rates an bank interset will be next.
Its said evil will increase in the “last days”.
Ain’t that the truth!






You okay hun?



Not me. I don’t address anyone in this manner and use correct capitalisation. Comment reported with recommendation for banning for fraud.



Are YOU okay Hun?



To all city lawyers we should come together and overthrow UK firm management teams. We have been massively underpaid (NQ: £110-125k) compared to our US competitors (NQ: £150k++). We should all take 4 weeks off in September to express our anger – together we win.



Some chambers have over 400 applications for 3 pupillage places. There is in fact no shortage of well-educated, dedicated wannabe advocates out there who would love to represent vulnerable clients.

So why not make all criminal defence barristers employees under one government organisation????

It’s barristers and chambers themselves that block this as a training option.

‘Access to justice’ indeed.



“…Taking first the option of a public defence service provided by salaried public
employees largely taking over from private providers, in effect the equivalent of
the CPS but on the defence side, that option would have major constitutional,
practical and cost consequences…” Bellamy review commissioned by the gov’t.

Do you believe that a fully funded public defender service would cost less than paying fees to the independent Bar?


Alan is a lizard

Alan , thats not what you said. You said “work harder OR take another job”. I dont have to draw a diagram as its perfectly illustrated above. You can read i take it, or did nanny type out your words as you shouted them from your cot?


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