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Criminal barristers vote for national walkout

Row over fees set to escalate

Criminal barristers across England and Wales have voted overwhelmingly in favour of taking direct action in protest over legal aid fees, it was confirmed this evening.

In a ballot organised by the Criminal Bar Association (CBA), barristers were asked two questions: “Do you support the CBA proposal for action now in respect prosecution fees?” and “Do you support the CBA proposal for action now in respect of Advocates’ Graduated Fee Scheme (AGFS)?”

Of the 2,725 response to question one, 2,586 (95%) answered yes. Just 139 (5%) answered no. Meanwhile, of the 2,735 barristers who answered question two, 2,567 (94%) answered yes. Just 168 (6%) said no.

The CBA has proposed a “whole profession walkout” on July 1. It also proposed that prosecution and defence barristers refuse returns from the same date.

In a statement this evening, the CBA said:

“Your message is very clear. Your engagement has been overwhelming. We have set out the changes that the bar needs to see. In the background, a great deal of activity has been going on. There has been very constructive engagement with the government and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) on an almost daily basis for several weeks. We are hopeful that there will be a positive outcome to these discussions, which if successful would result in substantial new investment.”

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This wouldn’t be the first time the criminal bar has downed tools in protest over fees. In 2014 and 2015, solicitors and barristers staged walkouts in response to the then Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling’s plans to cut the legal aid budget by £220 million per year by 2018.

Meanwhile, in 2018, criminal barristers began refusing new publicly-funded cases in protest against government changes to the AGFS. On that occasion, government bigwigs managed to bring the quasi-strike action to an end after agreeing to cough up £15 million in additional investment.

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