NFollowing the great railway workers’ strike in Britain, the island’s criminal lawyers are now on strike. Around 2,400 lawyers in England and Wales have been on strike since Monday, demanding higher fees from the government. The government has offered a 15 per cent increase in the rates paid by the state from October, which it says would increase the average lawyer’s annual income by £7,000. This means that the state is giving 135 million pounds more for criminal procedure.
The Criminal Bar Association (CBA), on the other hand, says this is not enough. She demands at least 25 percent more money for the lawyers. Their fee rates have not kept pace with the inflation rate for years, she criticizes. According to the professional association, the incomes of lawyers, adjusted for inflation, have fallen by more than a quarter in the past decade and a half.
CBA Chairman Jo Sidhu said the strike is not just about pay but also about the lack of criminal defense lawyers, which has created a “crisis in our courts”. Since 2006, defenders have suffered a 28 percent drop in real wages. “In the first three years of practice, junior lawyers only earn a median wage of £12,200, which is below minimum wage,” he said. 40 percent of the young lawyers left the profession after just one year. In the past five years, every fourth criminal defense lawyer has turned his back on the profession. In contrast to the business lawyers in London, who mostly earn very well, the criminal defense lawyers have to be content with low fees.
The strikes, each on one, two or more days a week, are expected to last four weeks. The first protest rallies have been taking place since Monday in front of major courts such as the Old Bailey in London and in front of the Crown Courts in Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Bristol and Cardiff. The British criminal justice system is temporarily paralyzed by the industrial action. She’s already overworked. During the Corona period, the backlog of unprocessed criminal cases rose from 40,000 to more than 58,000 most recently. Justice Minister Dominic Raab called the strike “regrettable”. The strike will further delay many processes and mean that “victims will have to continue to wait for justice”.