- 26 January 2023
Posted: 17 September 2022
In April 2022, members of the Criminal Bar Association (who are barristers who undertake legally aided criminal defence work) decided to adopt the policy of ‘no returns’ when accepting cases from criminal law firms. This meant that a barrister would not work on a case if a different barrister had previously worked on it. The strike action then increased in June 2022 when their policy was extended so that criminal defence barristers working on legal aid cases would not take on any new cases as part of their protest and they also decided that they would hold days of action by not attending at Court.
The strike action escalated from 5th September 2022 when members of the Criminal Bar Association decided that they would no no longer attend at court to deal with legally aided criminal defence cases. This means that criminal defence barristers dealing with legal aid cases are no longer working on existing case, taking on new cases, and are not attending at court to deal with cases they already had even if a trial is due to take place.
The aim of strike is to bring the criminal justice system to a complete standstill. This is because of low pay and the state of the legal aid funding within the United Kingdom. Criminal defence barristers are unhappy with how the criminal justice system has been underfunded for years and wish to make a statement. They believe that there is not enough funding to support the work that is done within the court system and the workload behind it.
The current strike action by criminal defence barristers is causing delays including a refusal of taking on new instructions and declining to attend at court. Therefore, even though barristers who have instructions on cases before the action of the strike have a commitment and obligation to the case, they are entitled to strike as a walk out. Consequently, cases at the Crown Court are being adjourned due to the strike action, or being progressed slowly in the hope that the barristers strike action may end soon.
All solicitors’ firms are in the same position as to being unable to instruct barristers whilst this strike action continues.
If you have a case in the Crown Court, you will still be expected to attend all hearings that you are summoned to by the courts. However, it is unlikely that a trial or sentence hearing would go ahead without the support and representation of a barrister at court.
Unfortunately, we do not know when this strike will end. It will only end when the Criminal Bar Association and the government come to an agreement over how criminal defence work should be funded for existing cases and future cases.
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