News

Barrister performs guitar solo to raise awareness for criminal bar strikes

By on
15

🎵 Save legal aid, magna carta was made to protect people like you 🎵

A criminal barrister has gone public with a song he wrote about the ongoing strikes over legal aid.

Church Court Chambers’ Michael Fullerton, who does not use Twitter or other social media platforms, took to YouTube to voice his frustration at the state of pay at the criminal bar.

Following an Independent Review of Criminal Legal Aid’s recommendation that pay for legal aid work should increase 15%, the government committed an extra £135 million a year into the criminal legal aid sector and later in 2022 announced that it would increase the fees by 15%.

The Criminal Bar Association (CBA), however, wants a 25% pay rise from the government, arguing that with inflation at around 10% this “means that a 15% rise in fees will be more than extinguished by the time we receive it.” Former Justice Secretary Dominic Raab refused to negotiate with the CBA and criminal barristers started an indefinite, uninterrupted strike on 5 September.

The barrister puts his frustration down to the fact that “the statutory instrument providing for a 15% uplift on new instructions from 1st October 2022 effectively means another 2-4 years before those trial fees will become effective”.

Fullerton told Legal Cheek: “In the meantime, £91 for a standard appearance and £125 for a PCMH hearing are abysmal fees for the hours of preparation required and then to attend Court. There are various other areas including paperwork and s.28 hearings which are not paid adequately or at all”, stressing that this is “particularly relevant for the younger practitioners who are financially struggling to make a living on such low fees and to note the government has been cutting legal aid fees in real terms for years.”

Striking barristers, who normally don their wigs and gowns when attending picket lines, have been criticised by some for struggling to sway the public in their favour. He added: “I wrote the song as it is a different medium from the printed word and, having attended the assembly outside the Supreme Court and then heard the CBA submissions to the Joint Select Committee at the Palace of Westminster on 6th September 2022, hoped it would highlight certain issues facing the criminal bar to the wider public.”

The 2022 Legal Cheek Chambers Most List

Fullerton’s song (embedded top) takes aim at “government ineptitude” with the barrister, who started out his legal career in Australia, repeating “save legal aid, magna carta was made to protect people like you” as the chorus.

The lyrics refer to short-lived strikes in 2014 following the then Justice Secretary Chris Grayling’s plans to cut legal aid that was resolved when the CBA agreed with the Ministry of Justice to suspend cuts until after the next general election. Legal Cheek is told that this was the first time Fullerton has used song to share his views on legal aid cuts with the barrister being understood to have sung on stage outside of parliament in protest of Grayling’s plans.

There is also little love lost over Raab’s departure. Fullerton can be heard singing: “Dominic Raab, was he the worst we ever had? We say: ‘shame on you’. Yes we say: ‘shame on you’”. Besides these specifics, the song voclaises broad criticism towards the government’s attitude towards legal aid reforms:

“Come the day you’re in court, innocent or not, or maybe down on your luck,
you’ll find legal aid is no priority for a government that doesn’t give a… [emphatic pause] care at all.”

Raab’s replacement Brandon Lewis had a “constructive” introductory meeting last week with the chairs of the Bar Council and the CBA.

For all the latest commercial awareness info, and advance notification of Legal Cheek's careers events:

Sign up to the Legal Cheek Hub

For all the latest commercial awareness info, news and careers advice:

Sign up to the Legal Cheek Newsletter

15 Comments

Anonymous

He went home to get it…

(3)(0)

Hartley Hare

Deary me, Michael!

(0)(0)

Antoni

One of the scandals that is not mentioned is having to do advices for free if you’re instructed for the CPS.

Every case that goes in the diary requires a full advice for which no fee is payable.

You might not even end up doing the trial.

Most savvy criminal practitioners have discovered that the best use of your time is to do advices on cases that are either going to trial or for which advice is being chased.

Doing advices for cases that are going to crack at PCMH anyway is a massive waste of time.

The only exception is the Pre Charge Advices but only a few special “choice” chambers seem to get large numbers of those.

(3)(2)

Anna

This is the most middle class way to protest I’ve ever seen

(7)(0)

Plebius

Why do barristers feel the need to wear their wigs and gowns to protest? I don’t get the impression it has a positive impact with the general public or anyone else, but quite the opposite.

(12)(1)

Hmmm

Because some of them LOVE attention and derive all their self-worth from people praising them for being barristers.

They could of course choose not to wear their wigs and gowns, but then who else is going to know what they do for a living??

The NHS maternity nurse who delivers children into the world day and night for £15p/h doesn’t wear a uniform or scrubs to protest.

(17)(1)

Anon

Lord Sumption made a similar point. It looks ridiculous and is completely counter-productive. I’m speaking as someone who supports the strike.

(5)(0)

Bo Diddly

Because for a lot of them being a barrister defines them and their self worth, such that they have. You know the sort that tell you what they do in 10 minutes. The ones that want to be a barrister at all costs trickle down to the criminal bar and there is a massive oversupply of them which is one of the reasons the government can pay them diddly squat and they keep turning up.

(2)(1)

Alan

I do feel sorry for the man holding the gun to his head forcing him to be a barrister who had to listen to this.

(0)(1)

Bang the drum of justice

Go on mike you have the government on the ropes now!!

(0)(1)

Dominic D’Souza

What a hilarious and superb ballad about our lament at the criminal Bar. Well done buddy for a much needed moment of light hearted but informative music in what has been a heavy hearted and sad period of strike action. Great guitar accompaniment- perhaps we should jam sometime!

Kind regards,

Dominic D’Souza

(1)(1)

Mark

I must be old. Since when did people start calling YouTube “the YouTube”

(0)(0)

Helena Handcart

Is there any profession left in this country with an ounce of dignity?

Doctors are lazy graspers. Teachers are a rabble. Bankers are vulgar.

As for the law, the roll is stuffed with spivs and the bar seems to be overrun with shouty protestors and at least one appalling balladeer.

Time to become a plumber, I think. Decent money and no pretensions to specialness.

(1)(1)

Law School

Criminal barristers shouldn’t worry – according to an article in Bloomberg – the top city firms will be fighting for their services soon. Apparently their “experience” doing sexual assaults and punch ups will be invaluable in the commercial litigation departments of big US firms…

(1)(0)

Qik

Presumably we are talking paralegal roles here. But still a big jump in pay.

(2)(0)

Comments are closed.

Related Stories