£54 million pay package follows ‘constructive talks’
Criminal barristers will be asked to vote on whether to end strike action after the government put forward a package of new pay reforms.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) announced in a press release today that it will introduce a 15% increase in legal aid rates that is applicable to the vast majority of cases currently in the Crown Court.
The package will also include a £5 million uplift per year for fees in the youth court from the 2024/25 financial year, and an extra £4 million for defence barristers involved in pre-recorded cross-examinations. The deal is worth £54 million and will benefit barristers and solicitors, according to the government.
After initially criticising the Lord Chancellor Brandon Lewis for going ahead with a premature press release, the Criminal Bar Association said:
“The offer from government has resulted from constructive talks between the MOJ and the leadership of the CBA. This offer represents substantial positive movement from government. As a result the offer will be put to a ballot.”
On the offer itself, Lewis said: “These are generous proposals, and I would strongly urge all members of the Criminal Bar Association to consider carefully, end their strike and work with me to deliver better outcomes for victims of crime.”
Shortly after the announcement, the Law Society, the association that represents and governs solicitors practising in England and Wales, announced that it was considering advising its members not to undertake criminal defence work.
Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce wrote: “Reaching a compromise with criminal barristers but not providing parity for solicitors is short-sighted given it is solicitors who make up the greater part of the criminal defence sector.”
She points to the fact that the government is currently proposing a 9% rate increase for solicitors, 40% less than the 15% being offered to barristers.
Boyce continued: “If solicitors do not get parity on the bare minimum 15% recommended by Lord Bellamy, the Ministry of Justice will have made it clear that there is no future in criminal defence practice and we will advise our members not to undertake this work.”
The MoJ press release states that further uplifts for solicitors will be announced in the weeks ahead, whilst Boyce indicated that representatives of the Law Society “are meeting ministers urgently today”.