Criminal courts in England and Wales face further disruptions as barristers walked out for a third week despite an increased pay offer from the government.
On Monday, lawyers gathered at the Supreme Court in London as well as Birmingham, Preston, and Plymouth Crown Courts to support the ongoing strike action led by the Criminal Bar Association (CBA).
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has said barristers will receive a 15 percent pay rise for legally aided work from the end of September, meaning they will earn £7,000 ($8,300) more per year.
Justice ministers have urged the CBA to accept the “very generous” pay offer to “stop victims having to wait longer for justice.”
But the CBA said the offer “doesn’t go near” resolving the dispute, as the proposed pay rise will not be made effective immediately and will only apply to new cases, not those already sitting in the backlog waiting to be dealt with by courts.
Justice Secretary Dominic Raab has said the barrister strike is “regrettable” and would “only delay justice for victims.”
But the chairman of the CBA, Jo Sidhu QC, has blamed the government’s refusal to negotiate for the fact that “those victims of crime and defendants who want to prove their innocence won’t see their day inside court.”
Strikes are due to take place on five days next week. Action will be suspended for a week from July 25 before recommencing between Aug. 1 and 5.
The CBA then plans to strike on alternate weeks, with no end date, with the action to remain under review and subject to the government’s response.
Solicitors Also Mulling Strike
Last week, criminal defence solicitors in London said they were also considering taking industrial action.
The London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association (LCCSA) launched a survey asking its members if they are content with the government’s proposals on legal aid fees and if they are prepared to join industrial action in protest.
The LCCSA said there was an “appetite for bold action” but also an “anxiety that if we down tools and further disrupt an already lumbering justice system, our contracts could be taken off us.”
If solicitors were to go on strike it would cause major disruption to a system which is already struggling with a backlog of trials and major disruption caused by the barristers’ strike.
Chris Summers and PA Media contributed to this report.