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Barristers’ strike ‘bang in line with the needs of the police’

Barristers began strike action today, with picket lines formed outside the Old Bailey and Manchester Crown Court among others.

The Criminal Bar Association has today said that their action falls in line with the needs of the police and that they are fighting for the entire Criminal Justice System. 

Crown Courts across the country will see widespread disruption as planned walk outs over legal aid funding began today.

The walk outs will take place on Monday and Tuesday of this week, but the strike action will increase by a day on each successive week, until late July when barristers will begin a pattern of one week working, one week out - no end date has been planned. 

Today, the Secretary of the Criminal Bar Association, Lucie Wibberley, told Police Oracle:  “We see ourselves standing in defence of the rule of law, so to that extent we are on the same side as the police. They want what we want, which is what the public wants which is a functioning Criminal Justice System. 

“We’re in receipt of large numbers of messages from the police officers who are remaining anonymous telling us that they want us to speak out for them as they see day-in day-out the cases that they are bringing to court to prosecute and the problems that arise if you don’t have a defence barrister or a prosection barrister and they are not able to do the work properly to see the trials through."

When Police Oracle asked her what would happen to the already huge number of outstanding cases, she said: “The government have a choice, they can either pay for the work to be done or we remain where we are at the moment.” 

A spokesperson for the Criminal Bar Association confirmed for Police Oracle that they have been sent ‘numerous messages’ of support from police officers. 

He said: “Successive chairs of the Criminal Bar going right back to 2015 have said that the reason for delays for complainants and victims of crime is the end-to-end cuts across the justice system and that includes ravages to both the police and forensic services without whom no reported crimes can be properly investigated and charging decisions made on time. 

“The police play a vital role on this. Our action today is a combination of a campaign to restore funding throughout the justice system.

“Our action is bang in line with the needs of the police, prosecution, anyone else involved int he criminal justice system.” 

Currently almost 60,000 cases are still backed up in the system. 

The Criminal Bar have said that barristers have seen an average decrease of 28 per cent in real earnings since 2006. 

The MoJ has already agreed to invest £135m extra in criminal legal aid annually, which includes a 15 percent increase in fees exclusive of VAT.

However, this will only come into effect from autumn of this year and will only apply to new representation orders. The Criminal Bar expects the benefits of this will not be seen before late 2023. 

Sollictors were also present supporting the action. Solictor Kerry Hudson said : "Our government works on the basis of divide and conquer, we won't let that happen to us.

"We are tired, we're exhausted, we've all been through the pandemic as well." 

Speaking outside the Old Bailey today, Chair of the Criminal Bar Association, Jo Sidhu QC, said: “Right now we are engulfed in a crisis of epic proportions that has never afflicted this country previously which has brought almost to a standstill the system we all love. 

“Last year, we lost another 300 criminal barristers. Why? Because they could not do this job anymore on what they are being paid. 

“We may wear a uniform but we are not a privileged species, we are the poor cousins of the criminal justice system. 

“We have no respect from a Minsitry of Justice which expects us to carry on and to continue without any sense of the long term survival of our industry. 

"[We are not just in it for money] if we were we wouldn't be doing criminal work." 

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