The body that represents criminal barristers has said a resumption of action is ‘almost inevitable’, as one junior member claims to be on the verge of quitting with a ‘broken heart’.
The Criminal Bar Association (CBA) said today that heads of chambers will meet at the end of the month to discuss the way forward. ‘Unless the full £15m is honoured, and that the months of delay are fully compensated, a resumption of action is inevitable,’ it said.
In its consultation response to the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) plans for injecting £15m into the advocates graduated fee scheme, which determines how barristers are remunerated, the CBA said the fee arrangement is akin to cases with multiple experts being paid as if it were a minor punch up and a case with thousands of pages paid as if it had less than 200.
The CBA also reiterated concerns outlined by barristers and The Law Society that the promised £15m is actually based on calculations for previous years and in fact only amounts to £8.6m when compared to 2017/18 figures.
‘This is not remotely enough to fix the broken fee system,’ the CBA said, adding: ‘The government will need a little time to respond. But we cannot go on like this.’
Last week the Gazette reported that pressure was mounting on the CBA to reinstate ‘no returns’ with immediate effect. No returns, whereby barristers would not take on new work and refuse to take over cases when diaries clashed, was due to come into force earlier this year but was suspended after the MoJ made its offer.
Meanwhile the CBA has published a message it received from a junior barrister. It doesn’t name the barrister only revealing that they female and under ten years call.
The barrister said: ‘I was in tears last night. I got into £30k of debt from professional loans. I worked so hard to get to where I am, as we all did, we all slogged it out, got into debt, struggled through pupillage. We’ve all missed holidays, nights out, family events, given up weekends, given up sleep, given up our sanity at times. And now the choice to carry on doing this job I love, this important job, is being taken away from me by a disgraceful fees system. And it’s breaking my heart.’
The consultation into the MoJ’s proposals closed on Friday.