Barrister strikes: Protest outside Old Bailey on first day of walk outs over pay

More than 1,000 criminal cases are expected to be affected each day in England and Wales by the barrister walk outs.

Hundreds of criminal barristers gathered outside the Old Bailey on Monday morning on the first day of nationwide walkouts over pay and conditions.

Eight in 10 barristers voted to boycott taking on new cases in a long-running dispute between the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) and the government over legal aid funding, which they say should be increased.

Criminal barrister protest outside Old Bailey. Credit: Socialist Lawyer

The CBA is demanding that the government allow criminal barristers to increase their fees by 15% with immediate effect, following recommendations from the criminal legal aid review.

Kirsty Brimelow QC, deputy chair of the CBA, said the proposed 15% pay rise would not happen until the end of 2023.

“By then it would be too late to help and would not do enough to stem the flow of junior barristers leaving the bar.” she said.

The action comes at a time of significant backlogs across crown courts, said to involve 58,271 cases.

More than 1,000 cases a day in England and Wales will be impacted by the strike action.

The strike action is intended to last for four weeks, beginning with walkouts on Monday June 27 and Tuesday June 28, increasing by one day each week until a five-day strike from Monday July 18 to Friday July 22.

The barristers are the latest profession to go on strike following rail and hospital worker walkouts last week.

Jo Sidhu QC and Ms Brimelow QC from the CBA said: “This extraordinary commitment to the democratic process reflects a recognition among criminal barristers at all levels of call and across all circuits that what is at stake is the survival of a profession of specialist criminal advocates and of the criminal justice system which depends so critically upon their labour.

“Without immediate action to halt the exodus of criminal barristers from our ranks, the record backlog that has crippled our courts will continue to inflict misery upon victims and defendants alike, and the public will be betrayed.”

The justice minister, James Cartlidge, said: “This is a disappointing decision by the Criminal Bar Association, considering less than 50% of CBA members voted in support of the option likely to cause the most disruption.

“The 15% pay increase we consulted on would mean a typical criminal barrister earning around £7,000 extra per year and only last week I confirmed we are moving as quickly as possible to introduce fee rises by the end of September.

“We encourage the Criminal Bar Association to work with us, rather than escalate to unnecessary strike action, as it will only serve to harm victims as they are forced to wait longer for justice.”

Justice secretary Dominic Raab said: “It’s regrettable that the Criminal Bar Association is striking, given only 43.5% of their members voted for this particular, most disruptive option.

“I encourage them to agree to the proposed 15% pay rise which would see a typical barrister earn around £7000 more a year.

“Their actions will only delay the justice of victims.”