HUNDREDS of striking criminal barristers held mass pickets outside the Supreme Court in London yesterday, as well as outside Preston, Plymouth and Birmingham Crown Courts, at the start of their latest round of action.
Barristers began a fight for a 25% rise in Legal Aid fees with a two-day strike on 27 & 28 June, followed by a three-day strike on 4th, 5th & 6th July and are now on a four-day action until Thursday. Next week they strike for five-days Monday-Friday.
Addressing hundreds of strikers at the Supreme Court in Parliament Square yesterday, Criminal Bar Association (CBA) Chair Jo Sidhu warned: ‘The profession is shrinking. 300 barristers left in 2020-21. When they come to the Bar in debt after studying for years our new members only get £12,200 PA. That’s £6.25 an hour. That’s less than the minimum wage.’
CBA spokesman James Rossiter told News Line: ‘We have people here demonstrating for fair remuneration for legal defence. This must be achieved or there will simply be no-one left, not just for defence but to prosecute and even to provide the judges needed to deal with mounting delays of trials of serious offences.’
Brereton Horne, a criminal barrister since 1999, told News Line: ‘I’m here to support the CBA’s action. You cannot have a well-rounded criminal justice system if all of the facets are not working together. Year on year the numbers of junior barristers who work in the criminal justice system have been declining rapidly.
‘Many junior barristers are living below the minimum wage. Morale is low and many junior barristers have left the profession. Action is therefore needed now to ensure that there is a criminal bar in this country to uphold the tenets of justice.
‘Having experienced decline over the years I cannot sit by in silence and not demand change for the better. It’s the ordinary man on the street who suffers drastically as a result of the decline of the entire Legal Aid system.’