10 October 2022
The Criminal Bar Association (‘CBA’) has today confirmed the end of the industrial action, which had caused many cases to grind to a halt. In a statement on Twitter, it said, “The Criminal Bar has voted to accept the proposal made by the government. With 57% voting to accept the offer made by government, action is suspended from 18.00 hrs this evening.” The decision means that the Crown Court will resume hearing cases as normal from tomorrow (11 October).
Barristers launched their action early in the summer by refusing to work on alternate weeks and declining return briefs, before escalating it to a continuous walkout last month.
Some barristers had complained that they sometimes earned less than the minimum wage for publicly-funded work after accounting for the number of hours put in. The CBA argued that in real terms pay had decreased on average by 28% since 2006.
The end to the dispute came after Justice Secretary Brandon Lewis proposed more reforms to fees for legal aid work, including payment for preparatory work, which the government said amounted to another £54m. Barristers had originally been offered a 15% fee rise from the end of September – an extra £7,000 per year – but were told it would only apply to new cases. In an improved offer, the Ministry of Justice applied the increase to the ‘vast majority of cases currently in the Crown Court’.
The CBA said that the criminal justice system remained ‘chronically underfunded’ but that it would respect the decision of its members and end the strike.
The backlog of cases awaiting trial in the Crown Court is thought to stand at an unprecedented 60,000 cases.