Before this year, criminal barristers had only walked out for a day and a half in 2014 before a resolution was reached in a dispute over legal aid.
But industrial action that began in April has gradually escalated as the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has refused to agree to an immediate increase to legal aid fees of 25%, offering only 15%.
The Criminal Bar Association says its members’ real earnings have fallen by 28% since 2006 and that the 15% rise will not be felt for years because it only applies to new cases from the end of September. There remains a backlog of about 60,000 cases to be completed.
Kirsty Brimelow QC, the chair of the CBA, said: “Government policies on toughness on crime and supporting victims are meaningless without the required proper investment in criminal barristers who deliver the justice.
“As criminal barristers start their historic, last resort, indefinite action, it is not too late for the secretary of state for justice and lord chancellor to change his legacy.
“Criminal barristers have stopped soldiering on through downtrodden criminal courts. They have stopped watching vulnerable people bounced into trials in 2024 with hands clasped in prayer that there will be anyone left to persecute and defend.
“This is not a ‘world-class justice system’ as set out as the vision of the Ministry of Justice. It is not even a functioning justice system.”
The justice secretary, Dominic Raab, has accused striking barristers of letting victims down and driving the backlog of cases up.
But the CBA said that in the