Barristers To Take Indefinite Action!

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JO SIDHU QC, Chair of the Criminal Bar Association, addressing striking barristers outside the Old Bailey at the beginning of the strike last month

BARRISTERS have voted to take indefinite action, refusing appear in court, and take new instructions from September 5th over fees and legal aid cuts, the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) announced yesterday.

A CBA statement said: ‘Following another extensive period of consultation with ordinary members and leaders of the Criminal Bar, the third ballot which opened on 8th August has now closed.

‘Over the course of these past 14 days 2,273 of you cast your vote. The turnout exceeded that on the second ballot in June (2,055) and was significantly higher than that witnessed in the first ballot in March (1,908).

‘Given that many members have been away during this month, the increased level of participation in this latest ballot speaks volumes about the strength of feeling amongst colleagues across all six Circuits.

‘We take great pride in the fact that our members have so consistently demonstrated such a deep commitment to the democratic process. It reflects an unshakeable underlying belief in the power of collective action and a demand to be heard.

‘You were asked to choose one option from a selection of three that reflected the principal views that emerged from the consultation process.

‘The result of the ballot was as follows:

Option 1 (Cessation of all action) – 207 votes (9.11%)

Option 2A (Continuation of current action) – 258 votes (11.35%)

Option 2B (Escalation of action) – 1,808 votes (79.54%)

‘Every vote has been fully validated by the CBA administrator who has again ensured the complete integrity of the entire ballot process.

‘In accordance with the terms of the ballot, it follows that the CBA membership has voted in favour of Option 2B.

‘This means that the weeks of action, combined with no new instructions (which includes no returns), will come into effect on an indefinite basis from Monday 5th September.

‘Given that we are currently committed to a programme of weeks of action and no new instructions (which includes no returns), the current programme of action will continue in the interim period.

‘As such, the next scheduled week of action will commence on Tuesday 30th August.

‘Therefore, the last working day for criminal barristers participating in weeks of action pursuant to the ballot vote will be Friday 26th August.’

The CBA noted: ‘It is a decision to which we have been driven after years and years of abject neglect of the criminal justice system and the cynical exploitation of our time, effort and goodwill by successive governments determined to deliver justice on the cheap.’

It added that the ‘continuing refusal of the justice secretary to negotiate a fair settlement with criminal barristers comes at a very heavy price’.

This price can be measured by the financial waste of courtrooms sitting idle and the impact on complainants, defendants and witnesses, the CBA warned.