Criminal barristers in England and Wales, who have just about had enough with worsening work and pay conditions, are prepared to walk out.
The Criminal Bar Association of England and Wales said that nearly all of barristers who prosecute took part in a prosecution fees survey and sent a clear and unambiguous message.
“It has roundly rejected its present working arrangement with the CPS [Crown Prosecution Service], when for too long it has been treated in a high handed and frankly desultory manner,” the bar said.
“Just why should prosecutors put up with those long hours, drafting documents for which they receive no remuneration? Why should they do all of those ‘add-ons’ the ‘could you just’ requests, which are performed out of professional duty? Just how much more and for how much longer is the Criminal Bar expected to put up with this?” it said.
An overwhelming 99% of respondents said that current pay for prosecution advocacy does not reflect the skill and responsibility the work involves. Asked whether they feel valued by the CPS more often than not, 85% said no.
An increase in the amount of work expected of criminal law barristers over the past five years was also reported by 84% of respondents, of whom 97% said that the amount of time spent dealing with unused material has ballooned.
While the bar has been engaging with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the CPS and will continue to do so “for a short further period,” 95% of respondents said they were ready to take direct action, including no returns and days of action, should all routes of negotiations be exhausted.
“This is not rocket science. All we ask for is fair remuneration for work presently done for nothing,” the bar said.
“There is a saying, you can keep pushing and pushing until it breaks. The old adage ‘you don’t know what you have until it is gone,’ has never rung truer than it does at this moment. The fact is that the bar has always been there and the powers that be have taken us for granted never thinking that they would lose us. Overburdened with work, work that was never part of any previous agreement and underpaid in a way that beggars belief, the criminal bar is saying plainly and simply ‘NO MORE.’” it said.