Court backlog: Criminal barristers vote to end strike action after accepting new government pay deal

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The strike action means that hundreds of trials have been delayed amid what was already a substantial court backlog

Criminal barristers in England and Wales have voted to end their strike action over pay, with crown courts set to begin hearing cases as normal from Tuesday (October 11).

It comes after barristers accepted a new pay deal from the government, with 57% of 2,605  who voted accepting a 15% pay increase, according to the Criminal Bar Association.

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The strikes meant that hundreds of trials were delayed. And at this stage it’s not clear how quickly the court backlog, which was already hefty due to the effects of the pandemic, can be cut down.

The package of measures, by new Justice Secretary Brandon Lewis, includes a 15% rise in fees for government-funded defence work, along with additional payments for court preparation work that barristers argued they were not being sufficiently paid for.

Criminal barristers begin strike action outside of Bristol Crown Court.Criminal barristers begin strike action outside of Bristol Crown Court.
Criminal barristers begin strike action outside of Bristol Crown Court. | SWNS

Barristers originally requested a 25% pay rise when they began strike action earlier this year over concerns the criminal justice system was ‘falling apart’ due to a lack of funding.

Despite an agreement being reached, charity Victim Support warned that more needed to be done to reduce ‘agonising’ waiting times for victims affected by long court delays.

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Mr Lewis said: "Since starting this job five weeks ago, my priority has been to end this strike action and reduce delays for victims, and I’m glad that barristers have agreed to return to work.

"This breakthrough is a result of coming together and restarting what I hope to be a constructive relationship as we work to drive down the backlog and ensure victims see justice done sooner."

The CBA said that criminal barristers have seen their earnings plummet by 28% since 2006, while inflation currently stands at 9.9%.

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