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"The CBA wants YOU to strike"


Criminal barristers are set to strike next week due to a row with the government over legal aid funding.

The Criminal Bar Association (CBA), which represents prosecution and defendant barristers, said that 81.5% of its members had voted for industrial action.

As well as refusing instructions on new cases, criminal barristers will strike for two days next week, followed by three days the following week, and escalate the walkout to the full working week of 18-22 July. The strike will then be suspended for a week, before action resumes on 1 August.

Striking barristers are set to attend picket lines outside the Old Bailey and five other crown courts across the country. 

The CBA is protesting against the government's plans to raise the legal aid budget by 15%, which the association deems to be insufficient

The government's proposal follows an independent review by Sir Christopher Bellamy, who recommended a 15% fee rise as the “minimum necessary" to "sustain the criminal Bar going forward”. However, the CBA is demanding a hike of 25%.

Jo Sidhu QC, chair of the CBA, told RollOnFriday that "an inflation rate running at around 10% means that a 15% rise in fees will be more than extinguished by the time we receive it." He claimed that criminal barristers had "already suffered an average decrease in our real earnings of 28%" over the last two decades, when taking into consideration inflation.

"A lethal cocktail of sliding pay and worsening conditions,” has led to an "alarming attrition of criminal advocates," said the CBA chair, with a loss of a "quarter of specialist criminal barristers over the last 5 years." Hundreds of trials were postponed last year "for want of an available prosecution or defence barrister," added Sidhu. There is estimated to be a backlog of over 58,000 cases across crown courts. 

Mark Fenhalls QC, chair of the Bar Council, told RollOnFriday: “Each barrister who has voted is understandably angry and upset. Members of the criminal Bar have been feeling mistreated, undervalued and overwhelmed for a decade or more."

"The criminal justice system has been politicised by figures wishing to make political capital but unwilling to match the rhetoric with action and funding," said Fenhalls. “All of this has been heightened by the stresses and strains of the pandemic, and we have been seeing flight from criminal practice – barristers abandoning criminal work to do other kinds of work that are better paid and less stressful."

A Ministry of Justice spokesman told RollOnFriday: "This is a disappointing decision by the Criminal Bar Association". He added: "We encourage them to work with us, rather than escalate to unnecessary strike action, which will only harm victims and the wider priorities."

In April, the CBA took industrial action by refusing to carry out "returns work" (cases taken on by barristers which have been 'returned' from another barrister for reasons such as a diary clash).

It's not just criminal barristers railing against the government - workers across many industries are complaining about salary rises failing to match inflation hitting a 40-year high. Rail workers walked out this week, while unions representing teachers, NHS workers and civil servants are balloting their members on industrial action over "inadequate" pay rises. Now is the summer of our discontent. 

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Comments

The darkest Knight 24 June 22 09:32

I read the first 3 words of the headline and thought “another story on the Knight’s shit show?”

Not this time.  

Anonymous 24 June 22 11:14

Public unlikely to be wildly sympathetic to a demand for a 15% rise for fat cat lawyers... even the perennially greedy trainfolk are only looking for 11.

 

So long as the result of this strike is that wrongun's have to represent themselves for a bit, then all good. 

Anonymous 24 June 22 12:55

I am a bit of a dick, but once - because I found it funny - I emailed Harry Potter barrister at 25BR (crime) as a supposed potential client asking for advice.

But my problem involved lots of wizardry, a stick made of a special wood, getting into an altercation with a troll, someone tripping me over a broomstick etc. Equally there was enough there not to make it completely transparent I was on a wind up.

Harry Potter barrister replied earnestly in good time with a detailed technical analysis of my case - all for free. There was no jibe or aspersions at my credibility either, genuinely think he missed the joke and believed me. If I instruct counsel for real, that’s the guy I want behind me.

I always felt a bit sad for him that he replied and with such fervour. I don’t think he earnt much. Well, that’s the topic of this article.

Anonymous 24 June 22 13:34

@Anonymous 24 June 22 11:14

You're right about the public opinion.

Unfortunately the public's opinion of the legal industry as a whole is largely ruined by genuinely overpaid "fat cat" London lawyers, politicians blaming "lefty lawyers", or incompetent conveyancing warehouses (usually not staffed by qualified solicitors).

If only the Law Society did something useful... 

This is why we need eco-wigs made of hemp and dreams. 24 June 22 14:07

It must be remembered that the type of lawyer a member of the public is likely to come across is either fictional and on six figures, or in conveyancing.

Neither type is likely to engender much sympathy.  

Anon 25 June 22 09:44

This is about the right to a fair trial. Who can afford to be a criminal lawyer now? You’d earn far more driving a train. 
Unless this is addressed, we will see more unrepresented people left to face the might of the State alone. 
That is not right. 

Anonymous 27 June 22 10:17

"Unless this is addressed, we will see more unrepresented people left to face the might of the State alone. 

That is not right"

 

Well I don't know about that. Feminists are always carping that rape convictions are at an all time low, so this might help bump them up a bit. Which is what they seem to want.

The bigger the number the better things are. Equality achieved. Job done.

Thanks barristers!

Anonymous 28 June 22 20:34

Until you’ve been a victim, or been accused, you may not get it. I think the profession should be doing far more to support them.

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