Hike funding

Litigators in England and Wales to strike indefinitely over funding and fees

British criminal trial lawyers voted overwhelmingly for an indefinite strike in the latest salvo with the government over funding and fees.

The Criminal Bar Association, which represents thousands of lawyers in England and Wales, said around 80 per cent of its members support the escalating industrial action that has been taking place since late June. From September 5, the lawyers will go on an indefinite strike until the government improves its offer of a 15% fee increase.

It is the latest setback for the new Prime Minister who will have to deal with a growing list of issues ranging from a cost of living crisis to a disgruntled workforce on strike over pay. This week, thousands of dockworkers at the country’s busiest container port, Felixstowe, walked away in a pay dispute while rail companies and network operators caused travel chaos in a series of walkouts at the summer course.

Legal aid revenues have plummeted 23% in one year during the coronavirus pandemic with more than 80% of their members forced into personal debt with government support, according to the union. Junior barristers earn a median income of £12,220 ($14,403) a year – below minimum wage, the ABC said.

Legal aid is means-tested government funding available to defendants to help pay for their case and lawyers. Thousands of criminal court hearings have already been halted as a result of this action.

The Ministry of Justice previously argued that the 15% rise in fees would mean the average criminal lawyer would earn £7,000 more a year. The ABC rejected this offer on the grounds that it did not apply to existing cases or did not start immediately.

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