The Daily Telegraph

Barristers’ strike will put criminals on streets, MPS told


COURT cases are being delayed until 2025 and dangerous criminals released on to the streets as the barristers’ strike starts to bite, MPS have been told.

Leaders of the Criminal Bar Associatio­n (CBA) cited cases of lengthy trials that had been adjourned without a date for a restart and faced “little chance” of being listed before 2025. They told MPS on the justice committee that judges had already ruled defendants should be released from custody because of the time they had spent in jail awaiting trial owing to delays in their cases.

Kirsty Brimelow, a part-time circuit judge and vice-chairman of the CBA, said: “What we are going to see happening increasing­ly is that when defendants’ custody time limits finish, they will be let out on bail and we may have on the streets people that we would rather not have on the streets.”

The CBA began an indefinite strike this week in protest at the Government’s offer of a 15 per cent pay rise in legal aid fees. They are demanding 25 per cent. MOJ figures suggest that for every full week of the barristers’ strike about 1,300 cases including 300 trials will be disrupted in some way. Ms Brimelow told the justice committee a murder trial involving an 18-year-old of previously good character currently in custody had been put back until next year after being listed for September, because there is no-one able to defend him.

Other long-running cases had been adjourned in the hope of restarting. But, citing one, she said: “If it carries on too long, the jury will have to be discharged and there will have to be a retrial. With a case lasting two to three months, there is little chance that it will be listed before 2025.” MPS were also told of a rape case involving an attack in a prison which was adjourned due to the lack of prosecutio­n counsel, while another case – listed for the third time – had to be put back until July 2023.

The CBA laid out terms of a potential peace deal with incoming Justice Secretary Brandon Lewis, if he agreed to backdate the 15 per cent fee increase to cover the backlog of 60,000 cases, rather than limiting it to current and new cases. The MOJ estimates this would cost about £60million a year.

The CBA, which is not a union but has invited its 2,400 members to voluntaril­y take strike action, has also called for a long-term, in-depth review of barristers’ pay to avoid a repeat of the dispute.

Dominic Raab, justice secretary under Boris Johnson, refused to negotiate, although hinted at the weekend he would offer junior barristers a pay rise but the overall package would remain within the same “financial envelope”.

The CBA told MPS it had not had one meeting with Mr Raab to try to resolve the dispute, despite making three appeals for face-to-face talks.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom