GCN’s crime team thanks solicitor colleagues for continuing support during CBA action

30 August 2022

Barristers protest on the steps of Manchester Crown Court

Garden Court North’s criminal defence and appeals barristers continue to protest about the effect of years of reckless underfunding of the criminal justice system.

On 22nd August 2022, the Criminal Bar Association announced the result of the most recent ballot of its 2,400 members – an overwhelming mandate for the escalation of the current action to begin a complete walkout, every day, every week, without limit of time beginning on 5th September 2022.

79.5% of the 2273 CBA members who voted supported this escalation; when this is combined with the 11.4% who voted to continue with the partial walkouts, this means that 91% overall continue to support action.

Thank you

Garden Court North’s criminal defence and appeals team would like to thank every single one of our excellent solicitors, legal executives, paralegals and solicitors’ clerks for their firm support during this difficult time.

We do not wish to add to the burden that our solicitor-based colleagues already face in continuing to provide high quality support to their clients. We are well aware of the significant stresses on legally aided solicitors firms resulting from years of underfunding and cuts. We stress our support to you in our joint battle to save the criminal justice system that we all serve and look forward to working with you again very soon. Thank you for your support.

The reason for the action and our demands?

In a nutshell, we have a precious criminal justice system at breaking point.

  • Decades of significant underfunding have led to serious reductions in the numbers of police officers, CPS staff and judges and to the fees paid to specialist criminal barristers (28% cut in incomes in the past 15 years).
  • 25% of criminal barristers have left practice in the past five years; 40% of our most junior specialist colleagues departed in the past year.
  • Court buildings have been sold (for approximately £264 million) and judicial sitting hours cut – resulting in a backlog of trials totalling over 41,000 before Covid, 58,000 post-lockdown and 60,000 now.

When thousands of trials cannot go ahead because there is no-one to prosecute, defend or preside over them, then complainants, victims, witnesses, defendants – and the whole of society – suffers.

‘The system has been increasingly failing every member of society and is now on the verge of irreparable collapse.’

The next generation

Some examples demonstrate the problem for our most junior specialists. These juniors – the 60% who haven’t yet felt forced out of criminal work – should become the senior barristers, QC’s and judges of the future.

  • Junior barristers in their first three years of practice are earning a median income of £12,200 p.a. This works out as well below half of the minimum wage.
  • Pre-trial hearings are a good example of the type of work these barristers do. These hearings deal with a defendant’s plea and set up the requirements for any trial to come. They require many hours of preparation and up to a full day at court. The fee? Between £91 and £126. This will usually be paid a year or more later and does not include peak-time travel costs.
  • All barristers have to meet the considerable costs of their job. Paying staff to organise their diaries and deal with the administration of their practices while they are in court. Buying the ‘costume’ that we all must wear and all of the IT equipment needed to work in a digitalised system. Paying to ensure that we individually meet the demands of the Data Protection Act, VAT software, accountants, training, certificates, insurances, law books, membership of professional bodies – none of this is optional expenditure.

We do not want to take this unprecedented action. We all chose this area of law because of our commitment to a criminal justice system that was once the envy of the world. We want to be in court doing our job. We do not earn anything at all while we are out of court but we have no choice and must act now to show the public what the government already knows – that the system has been increasingly failing every member of society and is now on the verge of irreparable collapse.

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