Imagine that year upon year have passed and there has been no increase to the remuneration that you receive for the work you do. And I mean not even 1% here or 3% there.

Imagine that year after year has passed where you have been warning anyone that will listen that the lack of increases are playing a significant part in your colleagues leaving and not being replaced. Imagine trying to tell anyone that will listen that the exodus is causing real problems in getting the job done.

Now imagine that those who are responsible for what you receive half listen and ask someone else to look into it for them, to let them know if you are right in what you say. Then imagine that this person comes back and says “yep, they are almost spot on, so spot on that you need to increase the rates by a minimum of 15% immediately.”

Imagine how relieved you would be to finally be listened to.

Now imagine that you get told this good news in November 2021. And you wait, and you wait, and you wait. You wait for the 15% minimum that is immediately required. And you are still waiting in July 2022. Meanwhile people are still leaving, the cost of living is going up.

Then imagine that the people responsible for paying for your services and your labour finally acknowledge that the immediate increase you have been arguing for and waiting for is, in fact, necessary.

Now imagine being told that the increase is only going to be implemented in a way that you will receive the increased rate in a year or more from now. Imagine that you are told that the “immediate” increase that you are awarded in July is not going to be paid for any of the work you do that month. Or in August. Or even in September. Imagine that you are told it is not going to be paid on the majority of the work that you do in October and November.

Imagine being told that most of the work you do in November 2023, two years after the minimum amount was recommended immediately, will not be paid at the increased rate. Imagine being told you are likely to still be doing work in November 2024 which will not be paid at the increased rate.

If you have imagined all of that, you do not have to imagine why it is that criminal barristers have voted by an overwhelming majority to say “no more” and stop work from 5th September. This is not a “strike” as such, this is the profession saying “you know what, most of us just aren’t prepared to do it any more.”

No matter what you may read about levels of income, no matter what you imagine barristers earn, the independent report by Sir Christopher Bellamy makes the case that the junior criminal bar need paying more and paying it immediately. The data makes it clear. Logic makes it clear.

The only answer that the Government have is to mislead. They mislead about the cause of delay. They mislead about average increases. They mislead about their “generosity”.

If the Government had listened to the junior criminal bar through the years, we would not be here. If the Government listened to the recommendations of the independent report, we would not here. If the Government had listened when the disruption to the system was less dramatic, we would not be here.

The Government still have time to listen and time to talk. We have a Lord Chancellor. We have a functioning Treasury. They have the relatively small sums available to them to settle this. The Bar have a willingness to work with them that is, perhaps surprisingly, undiminished despite the Government’s previous cavalier and callous attitude.

Imagine if the Government did the right thing, starting with applying the fee increase to the work in progress so that junior criminal barristers feel the benefit of the increase on work they are doing now? If they did, I imagine the criminal justice system will survive. If they do not, imagine the chaos that lies ahead?

3 thoughts on “Imagine

  1. polruan

    The Criminal Bar has been taken for granted for so long, and its members treated so appallingly, most recently during the height of the pandemic when they were often forced to work in extraordinarily dangerous conditions (whilst police and prison officers often frankly took the mickey of the lawyers they shoved into tiny cells to conduct their interviews, even when they knew or suspected that the individuals in custody were infected with Covid) in part — it has to be said — because of a residual reluctance to take collective action amongst many barristers, who felt that it was somehow inappropriate, given the knock-on effects of strike action on those they represent (whether as defence lawyers or prosecutors: they were admirably concerned not to risk e.g. sexual assault cases collapsing because of fearful and/or reluctant witnesses, and of seeing defendants remain remanded in custody for longer than necessary).

    I am glad to see that they will now be taking proper strike action, and are willing to try and see it out until they reach resolution, despite the poverty in which many of them live, on lower than ‘living wage’ incomes, with constantly unsociable (and often unpaid) working hours, no flexible working and dreadful working conditions.

    The CJS is facing an existential challenge, and it is not an exaggeration to say that the rule of law has been stretched to potential breaking point, and probably deliberately.

    I hope the whole bar will come out in solidarity with them, and that they will be publicly supported by all of the senior bar.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jase

    Interesting how MP’s salary was increased from £7,000 to £12,000 almost immediately during the Thatcher era in 1979 and now stands at around £84,000! Yet junior barristers have had to almost scrape the pot it appears! All that educational hurdles for a mere pittence!

    Liked by 2 people


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