Criminal barristers today convened at the Palace of Westminster to mark the start of the fourth week of their strike action over legal aid fees.
Striking barristers gathered inside the home of the UK’s parliament demanding to see their local MPs, as they continued to call for an immediate 25 per cent increase in the fees paid out for legal aid work.
Tana Adkin QC said that barristers will continue to strike “until the government sees sense” as she suggested the strike could now go on “indefinitely”.
“We’ve got nothing left to lose,” said Adkin. “All the goodwill is gone.”
Barrister Sebastian Cox said he previously earned more waiting tables as a student than he does now as a junior barrister. “I’ve got a child on the way. I have to think, can I feed that child?” said Cox.
Criminal Bar Association (CBA) chair Jo Sidhu told City A.M. that junior barristers in their first three years of practice earn just £12,200 a year – equivalent to £6.25 an hour.
Sidhu said the situation has seen the criminal bar lose a quarter of its workforce. He added that striking members of the CBA are seeking to “bring the public’s attention to the scale of the crisis that has engulfed the criminal justice system”.
Barrister Grace Ong said the government simply “misjudged just how angry we are.”
Criminal barristers will strike every day this week, and strike on a week on, week off basis going forward.
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “The current strike is now forcing victims to wait for justice, despite a generous £7,000 pay rise for the typical criminal barrister. We encourage barristers to put victims first and prevent any further delays.”
At the time of writing, more than 1,000 cases have been impacted by the barristers’ strike, at a time when the backlog of cases is at record levels.
According to the government’s most recent figures, there were 58,271 cases waiting to be heard in the Crown Courts in June 2022, compared to 57,870 in March of the same year.
Barrister Sean Summerfield said the lack of investment has seen the quality of justice suffer.
“It’s never been a better time to be a criminal, and a worse time to be a victim,” Summerfield said.