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Criminal barristers warn of ‘national emergency’ as they head to Parliament in legal aid dispute

  • August 21, 2022
Barristers have walked out for a fourth week as industrial action at courts around the country continues (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

Barristers have walked out for a fourth week as industrial action at courts around the country continues (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

The criminal justice system is in the grip of a “national emergency” with politicians accused of playing Russian Roulette with its future, barrister told Parliament as their strike enters its fourth week.

A delegation of barristers were at the Houses of Parliament on Monday to lobby MPs and Lords on the Legal Aid dispute with government, which is causing widespread disruption in the criminal courts.

Criminal Bar Association (CBA) chair Jo Sidhu QC urged the government to take decisive and urgent action to stop increasing numbers of barristers from walking away.

“This is a national emergency and it requires a national solution, not deferment and procrastination”, he told the meeting in Parliament, accusing Justice ministers of “astonishing” levels of “negligence”.

“For a government that says law and order is at the heart of everything it does, there can’t be law and order if you neglect it to such an extent that people are left laying by the wayside.

“Is this a game of brinkmanship? Are they playing Russian Roulette with the Criminal Bar and the public? Or do they want a solution that’s sustainable into the long term?”

Barristers launched industrial action in April and resolved to go on strike last month, after their demands for immediate increases in Legal Aid fees were not met.

Five days of walkouts are planned this week, meaning thousands of trials and court hearings will not be able to take place.

Several Parliamentarians attended the meeting with barristers on Monday morning, to be told the government’s current offer of a 15 increase in Legal Aid fees must be a “bare minimum” for the future and should be applied to existing as well

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