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The strikes continue

The strikes continue

Savannah Taylor


Reading time: three minutes

Criminal barristers in England and Wales are to continue their strikes, after nearly 80% of barristers who voted supported a move for an indefinite strike from 5 September. The strikes are happening after a dispute with the UK government concerning legal aid and working conditions. 

Why are criminal barristers going on indefinite strike?

After the first set of strikes, the government agreed to raise the legal aid fees by 15% from the end of September, meaning a £7,000 increase in earnings for criminal barristers. But, this sparked a negative response as the pay rise wob't be made effective immediately as it won't apply to the backlog of cases in the crown courts – which currently stands at 58,000. The Criminal Bar Association (CBA) has said its members have suffered a 28% decrease in earnings since 2006, meaning a 15% increase in fees is insufficient, and they want to negotiate a “fair settlement” with the government. Because of the 28% decrease in earnings over the past 16 years, criminal barristers are now fighting for a 25% increase in legal aid fees, as this would be “reasonable and proportionate”, according to Jennifer Devans-Tamakloe, due to the hardships criminal barristers have faced.

Read about this barrister strikes with this recent News story.

What are the responses? 

Government ministers have said that the strike would be “irresponsible” as it means that hearings and trials won't be able to take place due to the lack of barristers. No trials mean that the guilty won’t be convicted and the innocent won’t be acquitted. Sarah Dines, justice minister, places blame on barristers, stating that victims will be left feeling distressed due to delays in trials, which leaves them unable to seek justice. The Ministry of Justice has stated that more than 6,000 court hearings have already been disrupted as a result of the strikes, meaning many more are going to be disrupted by the indefinite strikes in September unless the government provides a reasonable response to the CBA. However, it's been said that Justice Secretary, Dominic Raab, has not met with the CBA since members started industrial action, but junior ministers have met regularly with the group. 

What are the political consequences of the strike? 

The strike action could have negative political consequences. The first day of the planned indefinite strike is set to take place on 5 September – which coincides with the day the new Prime Minister is expected to take office after the resignation of Boris Johnson. This will be the new Prime Minister in a difficult situation, with decisions to be made about legal aid fees. The Conservative government have said the escalation of the strikes was “wholly unjustified”, but Labour leader, Keir Starmer, has accused the government of doing “absolutely nothing” to resolve industrial disputes – with the rail and tube strikes throughout July and August, and now strikes from barristers set to continue throughout September. Many people are unhappy with pay due to the current state of the economy, and the new leader of the government of the day will be placed in a pressured position on what the next steps will be to stop the strikes.

It'll be interesting to see whether negotiations will take place between the government and the CBA and whether a resolution on legal aid can be found.

Savannah previously wrote about the barrister strikes in this Blog post: 'Strike! The truth behind the doors of the criminal courts'.