Following the outcome of the Criminal Bar Association’s ballot, in which an unprecedented 80% of respondents voted in favour of escalating the previous strike action, members of the Garden Court Crime Team will not be attending Court until further notice. In doing so, members will follow guidance from the CBA.
We regret the need to take action but the criminal Bar faces an existential crisis. We call upon the Minister for Justice to engage urgently with the CBA and to immediately implement the recommendations made in the independent Criminal Legal Aid Review. The criminal justice system is presently in real danger of collapsing and urgent action is required to ensure the future viability and diversity of our profession and to ensure that defendants, victims and witnesses have access to justice within a reasonable timeframe.
Junior barristers have left, and will continue to leave, the profession in droves, as they are faced with a rate of pay which has been consistently cut over the last 20 years, meaning that criminal practice is unviable for all but the independently wealthy. The Government’s proposed offer does not in reality represent a 15% increase and will not cover the expenses or bills of many junior barristers, let alone their debts. By the time the offer comes into effect in 2023 or 2024, the criminal Bar would have shrunk further. For decades and throughout the pandemic, the criminal justice system has limped on because of the goodwill and dedication of hard-working barristers and solicitors. It simply cannot continue like this any longer.
We applaud the CBA for its bold leadership. We thank Jo Sidhu KC for his leadership during his year at the helm and we welcome and support Kirsty Brimelow KC as the new Chair of the CBA. We thank our solicitor colleagues who have supported the action thus far, whilst bearing their own burden of wholly inadequate remuneration.