Defence lawyers protest over pay freeze

Barristers who handle criminal cases in England and Wales are beginning protest action because of the amount they are paid to represent defendants.

The protest stems from the freezing of legal aid rates in trials. Hourly rates for the 95% of crown court trials which last up to 10 days have not changed since 1997.

Barristers are self-employed and, by law, cannot go on an organised strike. However, some are expected to refuse to take new cases or appear in court.

The government has admitted the payment system needs reform, but said overall, defence barristers’ pay had gone up.

The Department for Constitutional Affairs has said it accepts some junior barristers do have financial problems. But ministers are awaiting the findings of a review before making any changes.

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