Lack of prosecutors threatens to worsen England and Wales’ Crown Court backlogs, Criminal Bar Association warns
A shortage of prosecutors in the UK’s criminal justice system threatens to worsen the backlogs in the country’s Crown Courts, the head of the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) has warned.
A record number of criminal cases are now being halted due to a lack of prosecutors willing and able to work, CBA chair Kirsty Brimelow KC told City A.M..
Criminal barristers are increasingly opting to work on the defence side of cases, due to lower rates of pay for prosecution work.
“Increasingly, prosecutors are not prepared to prosecute in cases where their fee is about 20 per cent less than their defence counterpart,” Brimelow said.
The pay disparity is partly a result of the 15 per cent pay hike that was handed out to defence barristers last October, following the CBA’s months’ long strike.
The legal aid deal inked by former justice secretary Brandon Lewis upped fees for defence cases, but kept rates for prosecution cases the same.
The remuneration gap means independent, self-employed barristers are refusing to work for the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and instead opting to do defence work.
However, the shortage of prosecutors is also a result of wider drought of criminal barristers, due to lower levels of pay compared to other practice areas, such as corporate law.
The prosecutor shortages are particularly acute for those barristers who are both willing and qualified to take on complex violence, sexual offence, and fraud cases.
The CBA said that the situation is now hindering the UK government’s efforts to cut the Crown Court backlogs that soared to record highs during Covid-19.
“There needs to be an immediate increase of prosecution fees to match the deal secured by the defence,” Brimelow said.
Brimelow warned that if the UK government fails to find “more money to pay prosecuting barristers… trials will continue to be ineffective.”
A spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office told City A.M.: “We are working closely with the CPS to help make sure the criminal justice system can function effectively.”
“Spending Review settlements have been maintained and any requests for further funding will be considered by HMT in due course.”
City A.M. approached the Ministry of Justice for comment.