Barristers in England and Wales stage first five-day strike over legal aid funding | Barristers

  • August 16, 2022

Barristers are heading to parliament as they begin their first whole week of strike action over levels of legal aid funding they say are bringing the criminal justice system to its knees.

Members of the Criminal Bar Association, which represents advocates in England and Wales, began action with a two-day strike at the end of last month and have been escalating it by an extra day every week.

If a deal is not agreed with the government criminal barristers will stage five-day walkouts every other week from now on.

Jo Sidhu QC, CBA chair, said: “We bring our action for justice to the heart of parliament as those MPs who represent us all, need to hear from those of us who persecute and defend on behalf of the voiceless – in particular the victims of crime left to suffer and language by government’s ongoing failure to stem the massive exodus of criminal barristers.

“The great leveling up agenda will be strangled at birth without government properly funding legal aid to ensure that we have enough prosecutors and defenders dealing with the unprecedented backlog of 58,000 cases. Without proper funding there can be no diversity at the criminal bar and our judiciary will end up deprived of the talent of hundreds of women and minorities from ordinary backgrounds who have dedicated their professional lives to the service of the public in our criminal courts.”

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The Ministry of Justice has agreed to a 15% uplift in fees – the minimum recommended by an independent review – to new instructions beginning from the end of September but is refusing to apply it to existing cases. Given barristers are only paid at the conclusion of trials and

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Legal aid increase SI is laid – at last | News

  • August 13, 2022

The government has picked the day before parliament’s summer recess to lay the legislative measure enabling a long fought-for increase in legal aid rates to be paid from this autumn. One practitioner group desribed the increase as ‘an insult to justice.

Attacking the 9% increase as inadequate, the Law Society called on the government to take extra steps to safeguard the future of the criminal defense profession and the criminal justice system.

A statutory instrument laid in parliament today confirms that defense solicitors will start receiving increases in criminal legal aid rates from the end of September.

But the Law Society pointed out that the overall package for solicitors still amounts to a 9% increase, not the 15% that the Independent Review of Criminal Legal Aid recommended as the bare minimum required.

‘It is positive to see some of the criminal legal aid rate increases for solicitors locked in,’ said Society president I. Stephanie Boyce. ‘But the overall package for solicitors still only amounts to a 9% rise. This must be the foundation for further increases not the ceiling.

‘The criminal justice system is in crisis,’ Boyce said. ‘The courts are crumbling, there aren’t enough judges and lawyers, and victims and defendants are facing unacceptable delays in accessing justice. This is a make-or-break moment for the criminal defense profession and the criminal justice system. The time to act is now, before it is too late.’

Boyce added that the Society is disappointed that the government has ruled out any increase in fees for prison law work, despite the review recommending a 15% rise. ‘Parole hearings are a vital part of the criminal justice system and solicitors play a key role in ensuring they run efficiently, and prisoners’ cases are presented properly,’ she said.

Hesham Puri, president of the London Criminal

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