Criminal barristers in England and Wales yesterday voted to end their strike action, but warned that the government has a lot of work to do to repair relations and fix a justice system that has been pushed to breaking point.
Some 57 per cent of barristers voted to accept the latest offer from the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) said.
The latest offer from the MOJ included a wider investment package and a planned 15 per cent increase in legal aid fees for the vast majority of cases currently before the Crown Court. Previously, the fee hike only applied to new cases.
Justice Secretary Brandon Lewis welcomed the result.
“This breakthrough is a result of coming together and restarting what I hope to be a constructive relationship as we work to drive down the backlog and ensure victims see justice done sooner,” Lewis said.
But, in a statement to its members, the CBA said that the criminal justice system “remains chronically underfunded”and that it was now up to the government to stop the system from “tipping over the cliff edge”.
“Barristers should not have to fight so hard again to bring this responsibility back home to government.”
The group said that the offer from the government is “an overdue start” but its acceptance by barristers “is on the basis that it is implemented”.
“Otherwise, the CBA will ballot again to lift the suspension of action,” the CBA said.
The group said the “goodwill of criminal barristers is exhausted” and reform depends on “continuing, constructive engagement with government”.
“Otherwise, our members remain ready to act again.”