Top criminal chambers pledge support for ‘no returns’ as barrister action begins

Transfer is available in response to ‘unacceptably low’ authorized assist charges

A rising checklist of chambers have publicly declared that their criminal barristers won’t settle for returns from immediately over longstanding issues with authorized assist funding.

Thus far 25 units and 13 particular person barristers have come out in support of ‘no returns’, a live document administered by Twitter account Idle Courtroom exhibits. The chambers embody Trade Chambers, Backyard Courtroom Chambers, 25 Bedford Row, amongst others.

Below no returns, barristers agree to not settle for instances which can be returned by colleagues who’ve a diary conflict.

The action outcomes from a latest poll during which 94% of Criminal Bar Affiliation (CBA) members voted to now not settle for return work, although they may proceed to attend court docket and settle for instances of their very own.

This got here in response to the federal government’s choice to take a position an additional £135 million a yr into the criminal authorized assist system, the minimal beneficial by Sir Christopher Bellamy QC in his evaluation.

The CBA mentioned in a statement:

“The action will be maintained until government agrees to a fair settlement of the criminal bar’s longstanding concerns about unacceptably low legal aid fees that are driving hundreds of our barristers out of criminal practice.”

The variety of specialist criminal barristers has shrunk by 1 / 4 within the final 5 years, the CBA mentioned, that means that there at the moment are “insufficient” prosecutors and defenders to scale back the backlog of practically 60,000 instances within the Crown Courtroom.

“Without immediate action by government to substantially increase legal aid fees, more barristers will be forced out of criminal work and the backlog will grow longer, leaving victims and defendants waiting years for their cases to be heard.”

The federal government lately introduced a 15% enhance in charges, however solely for new instances from October.

The CBA mentioned that given the backlog, barristers may very well be ready till 2024 and past to reap the advantage of any payment will increase.

On Friday, the Bar Council launched research displaying that the variety of barristers practising full-time in criminal legislation has dropped by greater than 10% in 2020-21 in comparison with a yr earlier — from 2,670 to 2,400.

The Regulation Society, in the meantime, has mentioned that it understands why criminal barristers are taking a stand.

Regulation Society president I. Stephanie Boyce mentioned: “The Criminal Bar Association and the Law Society are, for different reasons, both of the view that the Ministry of Justice’s proposals are woefully inadequate to address the crisis in the criminal defence professions.”

“Criminal law is no longer an attractive career option for young solicitors or barristers,” Boyce continued. “Many of those who are currently practising in criminal law will be considering how long they are able to continue doing so. We understand why barristers have chosen to take this action.”

Final yr we carried out an investigation which discovered that legislation college students are beginning to veer off a profession in criminal observe.

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