Home Entertainment Criminal Barristers walk out of courts in strike over pay

Criminal Barristers walk out of courts in strike over pay

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Barristers in criminal cases have gone on strike across England and Wales in a long-running dispute over pay.

Eight out of 10 cases at London’s Old Bailey were disrupted by the walkout, barristers outside the court said.

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said the strikes will “delay justice”, as courts already face a backlog of 58,000 cases.

Barristers have rejected a proposed 15% rise in their fees for undertaking legal aid work and will be taking action over the next four weeks.

Members of the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) have said this is too low and called for a minimum 25% wage increase.

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Jo Sidhu QC, chair of the CBA, said they had already lost a quarter of specialist criminal barristers over the last five years, with 300 leaving last year.

Kirsty Brimelow QC, deputy chair of the CBA, said the proposed rise in legal aid fees would not be introduced until the end of next year.

By then, she told the BBC, it would be too late to help and would not do enough to stem the flow of junior barristers leaving the bar.

Under the legal aid system, the government pays for barristers to ensure suspects who cannot afford lawyers are properly advised and represented.

The government sets pay rates for barristers doing legal aid work.

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Dozens of barristers have been rallying outside the Old Bailey in their robes and wigs, as two murder trials at the court – one involving a teenage suspect – were unable to get under way.

Others have been striking outside a number of high-profile courts, including Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff and Bristol Crown Courts.

Those joining picket lines have been warned by the most senior judge in England and Wales, The Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, that they could face disciplinary proceedings for misconduct if they don’t turn up to court.

Criminal Bar Association chair Jo Sidhu with a megaphone surrounded by barristers outside the Old Bailey
Image caption,Chair of the CBA, Jo Sidhu QC, told striking colleagues they were “engulfed in a crisis of epic proportions”

Downing Street urged barristers to agree to the proposed 15% pay rise, which a spokesperson said would see a typical barrister earn around £7,000 more a year.

But Ms Brimelow, speaking outside Manchester Crown Court, told the BBC the system had run on “good will” for a long time, including throughout the pandemic, with junior barristers working “ridiculous hours.”

She said the issue had been “caused by government, not by barristers.”

The strikes start with walkouts on Monday and Tuesday and, for four weeks, increase by one day each week until a five-day strike is held from Monday 18 July to Friday 22 July.