Barristers have started industrial action in a feud over legal aid funding today.

Almost 2,500 barristers have now said they will refuse to step in at the last minute to pick up court appearances or preparatory work for colleagues whose cases are over-running.

It stems from an unresolved row with the government over legal aid funding.

The government warned the action could see the criminal justice system slowly grind to a halt within weeks, making backlogs even greater.

Latest figures indicate that the crown court backlog stood at 58,993 in January. With barristers declining to cover ‘returned’ cases – which they are not obliged to accept – this figure is expected to worsen.

The Criminal Bar Association (CBA) has accused ministers of dragging their feet over implementing a 15% rise in rates for legal aid – as recommended by an independent review.

In February, criminal barristers voted overwhelmingly in favour of adopting ‘no returns’ should the government refuse to increase criminal legal aid advocacy fees by 25%. The government’s criminal legal aid reform proposes a maximum 15% uplift, which would not come into force for months.

The Criminal Law Solicitors Association and London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association are expected to hold a ‘legal aid consultation survival training’ event next month, where the government’s proposals will be considered.

Pic credit: Associated Press