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22 July 2022 | Podcasts | Article by Alun Jones

The Criminal Bar Association Announce Strike: HJ Talks About Abuse

In this episode of HJ Talks about Abuse, Kathleen, Danielle and Feleena discuss the recent announcement of the strike by the Criminal Bar Association. The abuse team discuss how a strike has come about and what the affect may be for survivors, both positive and negative, not only now but in the future.

In December 2021, the independent review of criminal legal aid, chaired by Sir Christopher Bellamy QC, published its report.

Key recommendations included:

  1. Set up an independent advisory board
  2. Immediate funding uplift for criminal legal aid firms
  3. Local solutions for better communication
  4. Investigate areas of unmet need for legal aid and new ways of working
  5. Collect meaningful data
  6. Reform fee schemes
  7. Restructure police station remuneration
  8. Other aspects of police station work
  9. Pre-charge engagement
  10. Post-charge engagement
  11. Magistrates’ court – keep current scheme
  12. Youth court – more resources
  13. Restructure the litigators’ graduated fees scheme
  14. Pay uplift for advocates
  15. Restructure the advocates’ graduated fees scheme
  16. Other expenditure

The report told ministers they needed to increase funding by at least 15% to prevent a major crisis in criminal justice. Barristers say much more is needed to stop an exodus from criminal law to other branches of the profession.

The government response to the report was slow, and criminal barristers grew increasingly troubled.

In March, the government announced, among other points, that an extra £135 million will be spent on the sector every year. There would be boosted “pay for lawyers representing suspects in police stations by 15% to tackle the perverse incentive that currently encourages lawyers to wait and represent defendants in Crown Courts because it pays better. The proposals will improve the advice available in police stations and stop cases going to court unnecessarily, delivering speedier justice to victims.”

The criminal bar association shortly after, in April, announced “no returns” action. Which means stepping in and picking up court hearings and other work for colleagues whose cases are overrunning. It is often described as a gesture of goodwill to prop up the justice system.

Criminal barristers largely feel that the Government are refusing legitimate demands for a fair settlement. Now matters have escalated; criminal barristers have voted to strike. The Criminal Bar Association said of the 2,055 of its members who had voted, 80% had backed court walkouts from Monday 27 June. This means that criminal defence barristers will not only refuse to take on work that is returned, but also on new work. The number of days that defence barristers will refuse to work will increase week-on-week until a pause at the end of July – and then a resumption of the action on the same pattern.

In a joint statement, Jo Sidhu QC and Kirsty Brimelow QC, chair and vice chair of the association, said:

“Without immediate action to halt the exodus of criminal barristers from our ranks, the record backlog that has crippled our courts will continue to inflict misery upon victims and defendants alike, and the public will be betrayed”.

The abuse team identify in the podcast how essential an effective criminal justice system is for survivors, not just those who are accused.

If you have any thoughts, comments or concerns then please do get in touch. You can contact Kathleen Hallisey at [email protected], or Danielle Vincent at [email protected]

Author bio

Alan Collins is one of the best known and most experienced solicitors in the field of child abuse litigation and has acted in many high profile cases, including the Jimmy Savile and Haut de la Garenne abuse scandals.  Alan has represented interested parties before public inquiries including the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry, and IICSA (Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse).

Internationally, Alan works in Australia, South East Asia, Uganda, Kenya, and California representing clients in high profile sexual abuse cases. Alan also spoke at the Third Regional Workshop on Justice for Children in East Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok hosted by Unicef and HCCH (Hague Conference on Private International Law).

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.

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