England: Criminal barristers to vote on ending strike

England: Criminal barristers to vote on ending strike

Criminal barristers in England and Wales have agreed to vote on ending strike action following discussions with the UK’s justice secretary, Brandon Lewis.

The Criminal Bar Association (CBA) will re-ballot members following meetings with Mr Lewis and his decision to offer a package of further reforms and fee uplifts to criminal legal aid. This represents further investment of £54 million in the criminal bar and solicitors, according to the government.

A planned 15 per cent fee increase for criminal barristers will now apply to the majority of cases currently in the Crown Court. This will also apply to fee increases for solicitors and is part of a wider package of proposals announced by the government today to help tackle the court backlog.

As part of the proposals, the CBA and Bar Council have also committed to working together with the government to reduce the courts backlog and increasing diversity among barristers. Measures designed to reduce delays for victims, such as increasing early resolution of cases, reducing the number of ineffective trials and progressing cases between magistrates’ courts and the Crown Court, will be explored.

Mr Lewis said: “I greatly value the criminal bar and solicitors and the work they do every day in our Crown and Magistrates Courts. They are crucial to reducing the backlog. My priority in these discussions has been to ensure that victims aren’t forced to wait longer to see justice done.

“These are generous proposals, and I would strongly urge all members of the Criminal Bar Association to consider carefully, end their strike and work with me to deliver better outcomes for victims of crime.”

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) will make £3m of funding available for case preparation like written work and special preparation. A further £4m will be allocated to defence barristers involved in pre-recorded cross-examinations, which are used to reduce the trauma of a trial for vulnerable victims and witnesses.

The MoJ is also proposing a £5m uplift per year for fees in the youth court, from the 2024/25 financial year, expected to benefit both solicitors and some junior barristers.

This Advisory Board on Criminal Legal Aid reform will hold its first meeting in October, to discuss future proposals to improve the system for legal professionals and victims in a constructive way.

Further uplifts for solicitors will be announced in the weeks ahead.

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