Protest action by junior barristers over legal aid fees has been postponed after the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) organised a second round of meetings to discuss the way forward.
Around 200 barristers of 0-12 years’ Call signed an open letter to CBA Chair, Chris Henley QC just before Christmas. The letter stated that they are in favour of direct action in protest over the recent amended reforms to the Advocates’ Graduated Fee Scheme (AGFS), which they said is ‘not fit for purpose’.
‘We are haemorrhaging talent… Junior juniors are voting with their feet,’ and ceasing legal aid work or quitting the Bar because of the poor fees, they warned.
The barrister behind the Twitter account @AbusedLawyer had organised a ‘day of action’ in January for barristers to protest outside the Ministry of Justice instead of attending court.
All proposed action was suspended after the CBA issued a statement telling members that further meetings will take place to discuss the way ahead. ‘At present we have no mandate for further action but the clear signs are that we need to consult the membership again,’ said Henley.
‘We do not rule out days of action to demonstrate just how frustrated the Bar is,’ he said, stressing that ‘unity is imperative’.
‘We need a clear objective and a strategy to deliver it. Fragmented action with no plan, as a small group seem to be advocating, will undermine us and takes us nowhere.’
Henley said the ‘unhappiness’ being publicly expressed by juniors was ‘unsurprising’ given the ‘fundamental flaw’ in the AGFS scheme. The cuts, he said, must be reversed to protect for the future a high quality, diverse and independent Bar.