The criminal barrister strike – what you need to know

Criminal barristers began indefinite strike action on 5 September in protest against the Government’s refusal to agree to their demands to raise legal aid fees following years of budget cuts.

Many members of the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) have been holding walkouts sporadically since June but have now escalated the action to an all-out strike.

This may cause you concern if you or a loved one is caught up in criminal proceedings, whether as a defendant or as a victim or witness.

Why are they striking?

Criminal barristers are striking after years of cuts to legal aid fees, which have led to large numbers of junior barristers abandoning the criminal bar. Newly qualified criminal barristers can end up taking home as little as £9,000 a year after their additional costs have been factored in. As barristers are classed as self-employed, they have to pay their own expenses.

The CBA asked for a 25% uplift in fees to include ongoing cases. The Government has offered a 15% uplift in new cases from the end of September. The difference is significant given that there were around 59,000 ongoing cases in the Crown Court backlog in June.

Will this affect your case?

The CBA walkout is going to exacerbate existing court delays as thousands of cases are already awaiting trial.

We are already finding that that trials in some serious offences are being put back to late 2023 and even 2024.

The strike action is less likely to affect cases where the defendant is not legally aided or where the barristers involved are not participating in the strike. We are also finding that some striking barristers are prepared to represent defendants who are particularly vulnerable.

Who will take my case?

With the exception of defendants who pay privately or whose barristers are not striking, delays seem inevitable in many cases. The extent of these will depend on how long the strike lasts.

For those wishing to access its services, the Public Defender Service may be able to provide advocacy services for defendants in the Crown Court.

What should I do?

If you are a defendant, contact your solicitor or other legal representative to find out whether your case could be affected and the likely impact. They will be able to discuss what is happening with your case and advise you about any options.

This may depend on a number of variables such as the location of the court, the stage the case has reached, the number of defendants involved and the expected length of the trial.

Also, remember that a defence case does not begin in court. Often, sound legal representation at the police station or before a case gets to court can have a major impact on the decision to charge, the nature of any charges and the strength of the Prosecution’s case.

If you are facing a criminal investigation, contact us now.