DrThe criminal justice systems in England and Wales are at risk of paralysis next month after the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) announced an indefinite strike from 5 September. Criminal defense attorneys complain that wages are too low and are demanding a 25 percent increase.
Hundreds of lawyers in black and white horsehair wigs gathered in front of Parliament in London over the weekend. The signs read: “Junior lawyers get paid less than minimum wage.” 2,400 CBA members voted by a large majority in favor of a permanent “indefinite” strike. The courts may not be able to operate for weeks.
This means that the mountain of unaddressed criminal cases in Great Britain threatens to continue to grow. It actually rose from 40,000 cases during the pandemic to just over 60,000 recently. These include thousands of cases of theft, theft, assault and rape. Former Manchester Police Commissioner Sir Peter Fahey has warned that the rise in the number of cases of procrastination threatens public safety. Criminals often go months or years without being brought to justice.
‘Justice is hostage’
Criminal defense lawyers had already started their first days of strike in June. Joe Seydoux, president of the Bar Association, has now warned the government that a prolonged strike would have a “devastating effect” on the work of the royal courts. Justice Minister Dominic Raab criticized the lawyers for taking “justice hostage”. Secretary of State Sarah Danes called the strike irresponsible. Newspapers such as the Daily Mail reported on the angry victims and their families. The trial of several appeals has already been postponed. The victim’s mother, Jasna Badzak, is now complaining that her nightmare has been prolonged by the strike.
But from the lawyers’ point of view, it was the state that led to a fundamental crisis in the judiciary. Unlike corporate lawyers, who can easily command six-figure salaries in the City of London, criminal defense lawyers are poor church rats for lawyers. The government announced an increase in the fees paid by the state for the functions of the attorney general. From October onwards, fee rates will increase by 15 percent.
The government claims this represents £7,000 more than the average lawyer’s income. “We dispute those numbers, they’re complete fiction,” said James Rossiter, defense attorney and CBA press secretary. In fact, public defenders – the lion’s share of their work – will earn much less. At most, the promised increase brings an average of £1,000 for a lawyer – and does not apply to older cases, which are likely to take two years to process.
The hourly wage is 5 pounds
“The state has set prices so low that they sometimes reach £5 an hour,” says Rossiter with regret. “For preparing for a hearing, say in a rape case, which takes at least twelve to fifteen hours, and then there’s travel time to court, you get £88 to 160.” Written submissions. “In real life, many lawyers often work 20 hours a week without pay.”
The government cites a study according to which criminal lawyers are paid an average of £65,000 a year. But this applies only to experienced lawyers who deal with difficult cases that command higher salaries. It’s very different for starters. “In the first three years of practice, many young lawyers earn an average of £12,200, which is less than minimum wage,” says CBA President Seydoux. As a result, 40% of young lawyers left the profession. The mood at protests in courts such as the Old Bailey in London and Crown Courts in Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Bristol and Cardiff swung between anger and frustration.
Zaid Ahmed is one of the young lawyers involved in the London strikes. He has been in practice for four years, primarily representing the accused in petty theft or assault trials. Sometimes he also serves as the Crown Prosecutor. It took five years to study and train at the Bar. “Then I earned £16,000 in my first year as a solicitor, now £19,000. That’s an average of 55 to 60 hours worked per week. ‘I can’t live on that.'”
In order to increase his salary, he sits several days a week as a solicitor on call at a police station, generating £75 in the evening. The immediate 15 per cent increase in fees would cost the state about 30 million pounds, according to the CBA’s calculation. “That’s a small amount,” Ahmed says. Otherwise, there will be a long strike. “Our strike will make the government surrender, otherwise the system will collapse,” he added.