Criminal justice strike: Barristers agree to walkout over legal aid, pay and conditions

Lawyers are set to walkout from September 5, and have described the strike as “indefinite”.

Criminal barristers have today voted to go on strike in a dispute with the government over pay, working conditions and legal aid funding.

The Criminal Bar Association (CBA), which is the union for barristers, announced the result of its ballot today (Monday August 2) with 79.5% of its members agreeing to strike.

Lawyers are set to walkout from September 5, and have described the strike as “indefinite”.

Defence barristers take part in a strike outside the Central Criminal Court, also known as the Old Bailey. Photo: Getty

Jo Sidhu QC, chairman of the CBA, said: “We take great pride in the fact our members have so consistently demonstrated such a deep commitment to the democratic process.

“It reflects an unshakeable underlying belief in the power of collective action and a demand to be heard.

“Our unity will forever be our strength.”

He said a series of “weeks of action combined with no new instructions” would come into effect “on an indefinite basis from Monday, September 5”.

From April, lawyers have been striking on alternate weeks over pay, conditions and legal aid.

The strikes are expected to delay thousands of cases, leaving victims and the accused waiting longer for justice.

The CBA is asking for a 25% rise in pay for legal aid work, representing defendants who could not otherwise afford lawyers.

Popular anonymous legal Twitter account, the Secret Barrister, today said: “As of Friday, August 26, 2022, criminal barristers will be walking out of court. Indefinitely.

“And we won’t be going back until this government fixes the justice system it has broken.

“Your move, Dominic Raab.”

Senior criminal lawyers hold placards outside the Royal Courts of Justice, as they go on strike in a dispute over pay. Photo: Getty

Members have rejected the government’s 15% pay offer, saying it would not kick in immediately or apply to existing cases.

Justice minister Sarah Dines said: “This is an irresponsible decision that will only see more victims face further delays and distress.

“The escalation of strike action is wholly unjustified considering we are increasing criminal barristers’ fees by 15%, which will see the typical barrister earn around £7,000 more a year.”

The Ministry of Justice said they have fast tracked legislation confirming the 15% fee rise which means lawyers will start receiving this extra money from the end of September.

The MOJ says the CBA’s demand to have the fee increase apply to existing cases would fundamentally change how fees are paid and cost a disproportionate amount.

Less money would then be available for increasing investment in victim support or court repairs, and barristers would have to wait longer for payment, the MoJ claimed.

Unlimited sitting days, temporary Nightingale courts to speed up the case backlog and raising magistrate sentencing powers are among the range of measures implemented to tackle criminal justice delays, the government has said.

While the courts backlog has fallen by more than 2,000 cases, from its pandemic-related peak of 61,000 in June 2021 to 58,600 in March 2022.

MoJ figures believe ongoing action is now impacting hundreds of victims a week, with crown court backlogs starting to rise and now standing at nearly 59,000.

According to a July 2022 Yougov poll, Britons would sympathise with nurses, doctors, firefighters and supermarket staff striking, but not barristers, civil servants, or lecturers.

An MoJ insider told LondonWorld no negotiations with the CBA were planned for this week.