You may have read in the press that barristers are on strike, it is inevitable therefore that you may be concerned as to how this will affect your case.
Why are barristers on strike?
It is more or less agreed across the board now that the criminal justice system is on the brink of a major crisis. We have written before about disclosure failings, but there is also serious underfunding of police, prosecution and defence.
This crisis has been brewing for many years, and we can now see the real risk of people being wrongfully convicted of criminal offences.
The government has brought in to force a new remuneration structure for crown court advocacy that makes a criminal practice no longer sustainable.
While some newspapers routinely peddle stories about 'fat-cat lawyers', the reality for most barristers is that they receive relatively modest pay for such a highly skilled job.
Recruitment is difficult for both solicitors and barristers as young professionals look elsewhere for careers, not just because pay and prospects are so woeful (publicly funded work has always been poorly paid in comparison with other areas), but because the working conditions are so poor.
This means that soon society will not have the skilled professionals it needs to ensure a properly functioning justice system.
For these reasons, barristers have decided not to work for the rates being offered.
The bar is calling for urgent action to ensure that our legal system remains the best in the world.
Which cases are affected?
The action is about crown court cases where the legal aid order is dated on or after 1 April 2018. Work on all other cases will continue as before.
Are all criminal barristers on strike?
Early indications are that the majority of chambers are supporting the strike action, with decisions still pending in some areas.
Inevitably there will be some barristers still willing to accept cases. At the moment solicitors are not involved in any co-ordinated action so it is not clear whether solicitor advocates (who can act in crown court cases) will remain available. There may also be representation offered by the Public Defender Service.
Will it affect me?
It is highly likely that we will struggle to find suitable representation in crown court cases.
We must act in your best interests, and this means only using barristers and advocates who have the requisite experience for the case.
While there may be some advocates available, we need to ensure that they can work to the very highest standards that we as solicitors expect. We cannot therefore accept on your behalf anyone who just happens to be available.
Will a judge order a case to go ahead with me not being represented?
No, that will not happen.
For as long as the action continues we will work to properly manage your case until the dispute is resolved.
How we can assist