The new Justice Secretary, Brandon Lewis, offered barristers a slate of measures that were not tabled by his predecessor, Dominic Raab. In addition to an immediate 15% increase in fees for government-funded defence work, additional payments will be provided for a range of court preparation work that barristers have stated that they were not being properly paid for.
The 15% rise in fees will also apply to 60,000 cases in the current national backlog, a key measure that has featured among striking barristers’ demands. Although the amount falls short of the 25% rise barristers sought, a majority of the 2,605 CBA members who voted on the new proposal agreed to accept the measures.
The strike action, which began in June following several years of complaints from barristers regarding the state of the UK’s legal aid system that provides the bulk of their pay, has resulted in delays to hundreds of trials. It is not yet known how quickly this backlog may be cleared.
“The criminal justice system remains chronically underfunded. The onus is on government to properly fund it,” said Kirsty Brimelow KC, chair of the CBA. “Barristers’ acceptance of this deal is a first step in working with government for long-term reform. If the deal falls short in implementation, the CBA will ballot its members again on taking action.”