Barristers strike: Protestors feel ‘watershed moment’ outside Royal Courts of Justice

“We do it because we want to serve the public but we’re just not remunerated sufficiently to stay in the profession.”

Striking barristers gathered to protest outside the Royal Courts of Justice said they felt a “watershed moment” had been reached in their fight for better pay from the government.

Around 100 junior barristers were out in attendance in central London on Wednesday, September 28, as strikes over what they see as unsustainable working conditions continued.

It comes amid the 25th week of industrial action by the criminal bar, who want a 25% rise in legal aid fees for representing defendants who could not otherwise afford lawyers.

Striking barristers gathered to protest outside the Royal Courts of Justice. Photo: LondonWorld

Speaking to demonstrators outside the court, barrister David Owusu-Yianoma said: “We’ve been forced into this position, [this is] something we didn’t want to do.

“The work we do impacts on our health, both physical and mental.

“But we do it because we understand it’s an important public service.”

It comes amid the 25th week of industrial action by the criminal bar. Photo: LondonWorld

Members of the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) have been on an indefinite strike since September 5 over what they see as unsustainable working conditions in their profession.

Junior barristers in particular suffer for their first few years of practice, with the average median salary for someone in this position being around £12,000 when all costs are taken into account - far less than the national living wage.

Kirsty Brimelow, CBA chairman, has previously said the strikes were an attempt to "hold up the criminal justice system from complete collapse".

Oliver Small, a junior barrister who’s been practising for two years. Photo: LondonWorld

James Oliveira-Agnew, a barrister of 14 years, said he felt they had reached a “watershed moment” with their protest today, and joked the profession had already survived both Dominic Raab and Chris Grayling, two previous justice secretaries.

Oliver Small, a junior barrister who’s been practising for two years, said: “I think most people here would agree we don’t go into this job to earn lots of money and become wealthy lawyers.

“We do it because we want to serve the public and prosecute and defend serious cases but we’re just not remunerated sufficiently to stay in the profession.”

Criminal barristers have rejected a 15% pay rise offered by the government to new cases from the end of this month, but wouldn’t be applicable to the near 60,000 cases that currently sit in the backlog.

Justice secretary Brandom Lewis said “constructive talks” were ongoing on the situation after meeting with the CBA last week, but no formal negotiations have been announced by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).