Both arms of the profession, including senior commercial City solicitors, have offered their support to criminal barristers in solidarity over the damage they are facing, the head of the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) said today. 

In the CBA’s weekly message Chris Henley says that senior commercial practitioners, both barristers and solicitors, have offered to write the CBA’s weekly message. Both sides of the profession are ‘concerned about the damage being done to our international reputation by our broken criminal justice system,’ he wrote.

Offering words of comfort across the profession, Henley said large areas of the country now have too few criminal solicitors providing publicly funded advice and representation.

‘Their fees been savaged in the magistrates’ court and for attending police stations. Certain consequences are inevitable. Training contracts in criminal firms are so rare they have almost disappeared. The age profile of duty solicitors is rising year on year; the average age is 47 but in many parts of the country it is over 50. We have been discussing this crisis with solicitor representative groups,’ he said.

The CBA is to host a heads of chambers tomorrow night. It is understood the meeting will ‘test the country’s mood’ on whether direct action, currently suspended, should resume.

In August, the Ministry of Justice published a consultation outlining how it planned to allocate £15m through fee increases of between 10% and 50%. The consultation closed on 12 October.

Barristers, who argue that the proposals will in fact represent a shortfall of £8.6m after years of cuts, have called on the CBA to reinstate a ‘no new work and no returns’ policy with immediate effect.

Henley continued: ‘The profession’s patience is close to exhausted. Many are angry about what they perceive to be broken promises, many are worried about their personal financial futures, and many are asking why we are not already back to action.’

A statutory instrument that would implement the new proposals has yet to be laid.