In the growing dispute over legal aid rates, defence barristers have been asked to vote on whether to refuse to undertake ‘return’ work, i.e. to cover hearings when other barristers are unable to appear. Barristers view this work as ‘a gesture of goodwill to prop up the criminal justice system’.
In December 2021 an independent review found that the legal aid budget needed to increase by £135m to reverse a huge loss of lawyers from the sector. The Ministry of Justice plans to respond to the report by the end of March 2022.
Chair of the Criminal Bar Association Jo Sidhu QC said, ‘It is […] the firm view of the CBA executive and officers that the recommended minimum increase falls far short of what is required to enable criminal barristers to continue to practise in this important area of work. […] This is a critical moment in the history of our profession.’
According to the Law Society Gazette’s Monidipa Fouzder, ‘the criminal justice system could slowly start to grind to a halt […] if criminal barristers vote in favour of escalating action’.