Tens of top QCs have accused the head of the judiciary in England and Wales of seeking to “intimidate” barristers with warnings they could face disciplinary action if they take part in strikes.
In an open letter in The Times, senior barristers hit out at the Lord Chief Justice after he issued guidance telling judges to refer striking barristers to the Bar Standards Board (BSB), if they fail to appear in court.
The spat comes as barristers are today set to begin a series of court walkouts after more than 80 per cent voted in favour of plans to strike last week.
The strike, which is set to see barristers picket outside of courts across England and Wales, comes as part of a long running dispute between criminal barristers and the government over legal aid fees.
The QCs said the Lord Chief Justice’s “warning shot” poses a risk to his objectivity in turning his “independent office” into that of a “partisan enforcer” for the government.
The barristers said the guidance “may have the effect of condemning the courts to a painful asphyxiation rather than providing the oxygen that we all, judges barristers, and those unwillingly caught up in the system, so urgently need.”
The letter comes as the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) also sought to reassure striking barristers they would be covered for any costs, as it said it is currently working with legal experts to advise anyone subject to referrals.