Dominic Raab has been accused of failing to take the concerns of criminal barristers in England and Wales seriously as the estimated number of cases delayed by their strike hit 2,000.
Barristers once again joined picket lines across the country on Monday as the walkout over legal aid fees entered its second week. Speaking outside the Royal Courts of Justice in central London, Jo Sidhu QC, chair of the Criminal Bar Association (CBA), said they would continue “until we get the justice that we deserve and the public is entitled to”.
Some colleagues standing alongside him held pastiches of the famous Barack Obama “Hope” poster, instead featuring Raab, with the word “Hopeless” or “Nope”, and Sidhu explained they were angry about the justice secretary’s failure to talk to them.
“It is deeply unfortunate that the secretary of state for justice has so far refused to speak to the Criminal Bar Association since October 2021 in order urgently to find a solution to the current crisis, with a fair settlement for the criminal bar without which there will be no one to defend or prosecute a record backlog,” said Sidhu.
A CBA source said a conservative estimate would suggest up to 2,000 cases having been affected by the end of Monday, day three of the strike. A Ministry of Justice (MoJ) source suggested 700 cases were disrupted last week, but that only included cases adjourned on the day they were due to be heard and not those postponed in advance because of the walkout.
On Thursday, the MoJ announced the 15% pay rise would be applied from the end of September, claiming the typical criminal barrister would receive £7,000 extra a year as a result. But the CBA is asking for 25% and is angry at the delay. It also says that many will receive nothing like £7,000, with specialist criminal barristers making an average annual income after expenses of £12,200 in the first three years