Criminal barristers are to vote on whether to accept an improved deal on legal aid rates from the government at ending a strike that has disrupted thousands of trials in England and Wales.
Members of the Criminal Bar Association, which represents 2,400 advocates, started industrial action in late June escalating to indefinite strikes on September 5 over the rates paid for legal aid work.
Their action has caused severe delays in the justice system with some trials delayed until 2023 and 2024 at a time when the government is seeking to reduce the backlog of cases in the crown court, which has risen from 40,000 in March 2020 to 59.992 in July.
Barristers have said the current legal aid rates have in a 28 per cent fall in their income in real terms over the past 20 years and called for a 25 per cent uplift to fees, to stem a further exodus of young barristers, who can earn as little as £12,200 a year.
On Thursday, justice secretary Brandon Lewis announced a new pay offer involving a £54mn government investment in the system for criminal barristers and solicitors.
The old offer was for a 15 per cent increase that applied only to new cases taken on from late September. This angered barristers as it meant existing trials, which they were already booked to do, would be paid at the existing lower rates.
The new offer, worth tens of millions, crucially applies a 15 per cent rise for new cases, plus existing cases barristers have already signed up to do.
The offer will also inject £3mn of funding for case preparation and a further £5mn uplift for fees paid for youth court work.
Lewis said the proposals were “generous”. “My priority in these discussions has been to ensure that victims