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The Barrister Strike

  • June 28, 2022
The Barrister Strike
 

After a week of hectic train strikes, the UK is seeing more disruption in the working world.

It seems that after years of living through the pandemic, the working world has realised how unjustly they have been treated in terms of their pay and working conditions.

Those in the law sector, specifically barristers, are striking in England and Wales as a result of the same issues as mentioned above.

These strikes are planned over four weeks, with walkouts starting at twice a week and increasing by a day every week until the week of 18th-22nd July with a five-day strike.

This will cause a big ripple effect on cases with more than 1,000 cases due to be impacted with every day of the strikes, according to the Criminal Bar Association (CBA).

Dominic Raab, Just Secretary, stated that these strikes would just hinder the victims though as courts already have a backlog of a huge 58,271 cases!

According to the deputy chair of the CBA, Kirsty Brimelow, the requested 15% pay rise would only come into effect at the end of 2023. Brimelow goes on to explain that by the time the raise would be applied it would not help in an effective way and would not do enough to prevent the number of junior barristers who are leaving the bar.

The junior barristers in question have been working in a field that has been running on ‘good will’ for a long time, especially throughout the pandemic - they have even been working ‘ridiculous hours’ according to Brimelow.

She believes that the daily 1,000 cases are a result of the government, not those who are striking. This seems to be the case if these overworked individuals are constantly being overlooked. Sometimes the only way to cause a change is through these big actions, otherwise workers can be easily ignored.

Despite this reality that Brimelow has brought forward, Raab still is trying to convince those barristers who are striking to accept the pay rise.

Brimelow has provided evidence for how overworked and understaffed the so called justice system is by stating how 567 criminal trials (including 60 sexual offence cases!) were unable to go ahead in 2021 as a result of too few barristers available to prosecute and defend on these cases.

Many barristers and others working in the criminal justice system have left their positions over the past decade as a result of them being unable to make a living from their pay when taking on cases which were funded by legal aid.

This is so extreme that with an amalgamation of all the extra hours worked preparing cases equates to some barristers technically earning less than minimum wage.

The chairman of CBA, Jo Sidhu QC, showed that the average barrister has suffered an average pay fall of 28% since 2006. He also stated that juniors in their first three years of practice earned a median income of £12,200 (just below minimum wage!).

Sidhu revealed that nearly 40% of junior criminal barristers left their jobs within a year, and more than a quarter of specialist criminal barristers (around 300) quit in the last five years.

It is clear that these barristers are in serious need of better wage and working conditions!