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The Criminal Justice System is at breaking point until Junior Barrister pay is addressed, says Leading QC

Commenting on today’s news that the Criminal Bar Association has voted for an indefinite, uninterrupted strike in England and Wales from 5 September, Michelle Heeley QC, Leader of the Midlands Circuit and Barrister at No5 Barristers’ Chambers said:

“For the last several months, the CBA has attempted to motivate the government through a variety of actions to bring attention to the low pay Junior Barristers under 3 years call receive in this country. For just £12,700 a year, these young and eager professionals work an average of 60-hour weeks. That equals just over £4 an hour. Both prosecuting and defending members of the public, Junior Barristers uphold our right of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ for less than minimum wage.

“The proposal given to the CBA by the Government offers a £7,000 annual pay increase, something that would help if implemented immediately. On the contrary, this raise would only come into effect on new cases charged after 30 September and wouldn’t apply for those currently sat in the Crown Court Backlog, which presently sits at over 60,000. With a waitlist that long, many cases aren’t seeing the inside of a courtroom for more than 700 days. The outcome of this is that Junior Barristers wouldn’t see this increase for over two years.

“The Criminal Justice System cannot continue to underpay the youngest members of our profession and expect people to join the industry. Without personal financial backing and sacrifice, many barristers cannot afford this line of work, resulting in 25% leaving for more lucrative sectors.

“It is because of this that we have chosen to strike. The Criminal Justice System will shut down until we can work with the government to create a solution that starts to address the many issues the Crown Court currently faces.”

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