Barristers threaten action over pay

Criminal barristers are threatening to boycott work on crown court trials listed to last up to two weeks in protest at an eight-year pay freeze.

The barristers say legal aid rates for work on trials lasting between one and 10 days have been frozen since 1997, while property prices have soared, average earnings have risen by 36% and the retail price index has increased by 22.5%.

Of more than 1,000 respondents to a survey by the Criminal Bar Association, 97% want the association to explore the possibility of direct action, and 80% said they would be prepared to take action themselves.

Any boycott would affect 95% of the cases going through the crown courts in England and Wales, including child sex abuse, rapes, burglaries, robberies, muggings, and the less complicated murders.

One junior barrister who replied to the survey said: “There are few graduate jobs that are worse paid than that of junior counsel at the criminal bar. I actually earned £5,000 less last year than my school friend who is now a teacher – supposedly a badly paid job.

“It is hardly surprising that many very talented people are leaving the bar to become employed with much higher and more regular income.”

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