updated on 23 August 2022
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Barristers have voted to go on an indefinite, uninterrupted strike in England and Wales starting from 5 September 2022. Up until this point, members have been striking on alternate weeks in a dispute with the government over pay, working conditions and legal aid funding. These strikes are predicted to delay justice for thousands of victims and the accused.
The government offered a 15% pay rise in response to the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) demand for a 25% pay rise for legal aid work. However, the CBA rejected this on the basis that it wouldn’t kick in immediately or apply to existing cases.
Out of 2,273 votes cast, a majority of 1,808 members voted to escalate the strike. Kristy Brimelow QC, vice-chair of the CBA, said the strike action was a last resort. She further highlighted how “barristers have had to endure collapses in their income and cuts and underfunding so that their income has decreased over 28% since around 2006”.
On the other hand, Justice Minister Sarah Dines said that “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”.
According to Ministry of Justice reports, more than 6,000 court hearings have been disrupted because of the strikes. To make matters more complicated, courts in England and Wales also have a large backlog of cases, with reports showing there are more than 58,000 cases waiting to go to trial.