The Garden Court Crime Team is completely supportive of Angela Rafferty QC and the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) who deserve our gratitude and thanks. We recognise the dedication and time that has been put into negotiating for a fair deal for the Bar.
The recent offer by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) amounts to an increase of 5.5% from the Autumn with a further 1% offered next year. This does not begin to compensate for the cuts of over 40% which have been imposed on the Criminal Bar over the last 20 years.
The cuts to funding of the most complicated cases are swingeing. There is currently no recognition of time spent considering unused material, often amounting to hundreds or thousands of documents.
Whilst engagement by the MoJ with the CBA leadership and the offer of new investment is welcomed, this offer will fail to preserve the Criminal Bar in the medium to long term.
Criminal barristers cannot continue to offer excellent representation to the vulnerable in an environment where the existence of the Criminal Bar is under threat. We believe that the continued underfunding of successive legal aid schemes will destroy the Criminal Bar.
We call on our colleagues across the Criminal Bar to vote against accepting the MoJ's current proposal in the CBA ballot. We have seen what we can achieve with unity and a sense of purpose. If the MoJ is serious about wanting to restore goodwill at the publicly funded Criminal Bar then the MoJ should put forward a proposal which guarantees the sustainability and long term future of the Criminal Bar. Only in this way can the Government guarantee that members of society continue to receive excellent legal representation via the legal aid scheme and ensure access to justice for all - accused, victims of crime and witnesses alike.