Criminal barristers are regularly skipping breaks and very few have had a full lunch break in weeks, the chair of the Criminal Bar Association has said.

Angela Rafferty said a straw poll she had carried out showed advocates were expected to prepare interview edits, research for judges and draft admissions ’all while everyone else is on a lunch break’.

This comes at a time when ‘everyone is ground down and the latest fee reform will feel like another huge worry,’ Rafferty said.

Writing in her weekly message she added: ‘I know that you are all being asked to do more and more for less and less including training outside work hours and the constant drafting of documents and reading of huge volumes of material you know you will never be paid for.’

The information on barristers’ lunch breaks was compiled following conversations with barristers, including senior QCs and juniors.

Rafferty added that barristers are also sometimes being asked to prepare skeleton arguments that have been ‘asked for at a moment’s notice’.

’All of this might be acceptable if we are being properly remunerated and valued. But we are not. The system relies heavily upon the goodwill of the criminal bar, but the present crisis means that many are struggling to survive. Our working day doesn’t start when the court sits or end when it rises. We are losing our talented members who simply cannot cope with the attrition of endless hours for little pay.’

Earlier this month the Gazette reported that Rafferty and CBA colleagues are forming a coalition with criminal legal aid solicitors to ‘campaign for the restoration of properly funded criminal legal aid and a halt in the degradation of the criminal justice system’.

Her call came after the government published its plans for reforming the Advocates Graduated Fee Scheme in which it proposed basing criminal advocates’ pay on the seriousness and complexity of the work rather than the number of pages in a case.