Criminal barristers will stage a complete one day walkout on 1 July, the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) has announced. Prosecution and defence barristers will also refuse case returns from 1 July.
Almost 95% of barristers who voted came out in favour of the CBA’s proposal for action over prosecution fees; 94% of barristers supported the CBA’s proposal for action over the advocats' graduated fee scheme (AGFS).
According to the CBA, 80% of barristers actively practising at the criminal bar turned out to vote.
The result marks a boiling over of tension in the long-running dispute over legal aid and prosecution fees.
Law Society president Christina Blacklaws said: ‘We have consistently highlighted the underfunding in the criminal justice system. Defence solicitors are still waiting for an increase after 20 years.
‘Through our criminal justice campaign, we have put forward a solid evidence base to convince the Treasury of the need for additional funding but patience among the profession is running thin. The review into criminal legal aid fees may be too little, too late – the criminal justice system is on the brink of collapse.
'We urge the government to plug the gap immediately by announcing an interim increase in remuneration rates while we continue to discuss the long-term improvements needed.’
Chair of the CBA Chris Henley QC and vice-chair Caroline Goodwin GC said: ‘Your engagement has been overwhelming. In the background a great deal of activity has been going on. There has been very constructive engagement with the government and CPS on an almost daily basis for several weeks.
‘We are hopeful that there will be a positive outcome to these discussions, which if successful would result in substantial new investment.’
A government spokesperson said: 'We’ve recently committed to a full review of legal aid payment schemes and are already engaging with a wide range of legal professionals on this. We are considering the most constructive way forward with representatives of the Bar, while keeping all members of the criminal legal aid profession in mind.'