Criminal barristers are staging a morning of strike action today (06/01/14) in protest at cuts to Legal Aid.
The Chairman of the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) Nigel Lithman QC confirmed the date of the first day of strike action in December.
Barristers in England and Wales are expected to strike until 2pm today, leaving courtrooms closed in the morning.
Mr Lithman said:
“Some members of the CBA have decided they will no longer be available/will not work during the morning of 6 January – but will be available to attend court from 2pm that day.”
Barristers are being allowed to choose for themselves whether they support the strike, said Mr Lithman.
“We hope that judges will be sympathetic to applications for a 2pm start. This appears to be a wholly reasonable and proportionate response to the conduct of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ),” he added.
The CBA’s day of action is likely to affect criminal cases scheduled for court hearings.
Solicitor advocates are also likely to join their colleagues at the CBA in support of the day of action.
The CBA has said the day of action is a “momentous occasion” and claims that cuts to Legal Aid represent “the biggest threat to the country's legal system in 400 years”.
Barristers who specialise in crime are paid by the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) – junior barristers starting out on their careers already struggle financially and sometimes have to wait months to be paid even small fees for court work.
Many barristers are switching from crime to other areas of law as a result of low fees, says the CBA – potentially resulting in a shortage of barristers willing to specialise in crime.
The new Minister of State for the Ministry of Justice, Lord Faulks QC, is supporting the CBA Day of Action:
“It is beyond argument that criminal barristers are, for the most part, very moderately paid . . .
“…The criminal Bar is a profession in crisis,” he said.