Dominic Raab has been reminded that criminal barristers have suspended strike action over legal aid funding – not ended it - after the lord chancellor criticised the £54m deal negotiated by his predecessor.

Raab told the House of Commons justice select committee on Tuesday that the criminal bar’s 'unwarranted' strike had caused significant damage. He questioned where the £54m bill for settlement would come from but insisted he would proceed with the deal ‘as a matter of good faith’.

Responding to his comments, CBA chair Kirsty Brimelow KC said bar leaders continued to work constructively with the Ministry of Justice to implement long-term reform to defence legal aid and immediate investment as agreed in the deal with Raab’s predecessor, Brandon Lewis MP.

‘The same first step investment now is required into prosecuting barristers’ fees,’ she added. ‘Without matching prosecution fees to defence fees the skeletal bar will continue to decrease and trials will continue to be ineffective. There are around 75,000 people awaiting trial before the Crown court.’

Brimelow said the deal accepted by the criminal bar was a landmark movement from the government ‘but it remains a first step towards properly funding the criminal justice system’.

Barristers were forced to take action to prevent the criminal justice system completely collapsing, she added. ‘The backlog of cases was 41,000 before the pandemic and then was accelerated by Covid. 

‘The CBA action sadly was urgent and necessary and taken by the profession with a heavy heart. And the whole system remains on a cliff edge. The Criminal Bar Association continues to welcome a meeting with the secretary of state and lord chancellor in order to work alongside him as it is doing with the Ministry of Justice.’

Following media coverage of Raab's comments yesterday, the CBA tweeted an ‘important assertion’ that required clarification. ‘Dominic Raab would do well to remember that the action is suspended. The action has not ended.’

When criminal barristers voted last month to accept the government’s deal, the CBA said barristers would be balloted on resuming strike action if the government failed to stop the criminal justice system ‘tipping over the cliff edge’.

The government will publish its full response to the Bellamy legal aid review next week.


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