THE WEST Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner has thrown his support behind criminal barristers went on strike this week over pay.
Barristers took to the picket line on Monday, June 27, and Tuesday, June 28, outside courts across England and Wales, including Birmingham Crown Court.
The dispute concerns legal aid fee levels in the profession, when the government pays for barristers to ensure suspects who cannot afford lawyers are properly advised and represented.
The government sets pay rates for barristers doing legal aid work.
Barristers have rejected a proposed 15 per cent rise in their fees for undertaking legal aid work and will be taking action over the next four weeks. Striking barristers are seeking a 25 per cent uplift.
More than 1,000 cases will be impacted on each day of the strikes, the Criminal Bar Association has said.
West Midlands PCC, Simon Foster, said: “For years this government has recklessly cut funding to the entire criminal justice system.
“It therefore shouldn’t come as a shock to anybody that barristers, who are sometimes having to take on cases that see them work for below the minimum wage, in circumstances where incomes have fallen nearly 30 per cent over the last two decades, have had enough.
“It is disappointing that the government has chosen to unnecessarily starve the criminal justice system of cash, with the effect that it is victims of crime that suffer.”
But Justice Secretary Dominic Raab criticised the industrial action describing it as ‘disruptive’.
He said the strikes will “delay justice”, as courts already face a backlog of 58,000 cases.
He urged barristers to accept a proposed 15 per cent pay rise, as part of an increased investment in criminal legal aid of £135million a year.
Those joining picket lines have been warned by the most senior judge in England and Wales, The Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, that they could face disciplinary proceedings for misconduct if they don’t turn up to court.