Criminal barristers in England and Wales are to suspend their strike over legal-aid funding, after voting to accept a revised offer of Stg £54 million from the British government.
The Law Society Gazette of England and Wales said, however, that solicitors were still unhappy with the offer, and would discuss their options later this week.
The Criminal Bar Association (CBA) announced this morning (10 October) that 57% of 2,605 barristers said ‘yes’ to a new deal that will see a 15% fee uplift apply to the “vast majority” of cases in the Crown court backlog.
CBA warns on under-funding
According to the Gazette, this backlog in Crown court cases is currently hovering around the 60,000 mark. Under the British government's original package, the increase applied only to new cases from 1 October.
“Whatever the final result, there will always be disappointment, and even bitterness,” the CBA said in a statement.
“The underlying causes that compelled us to commence action, as a unified group, have not gone away. The criminal justice system remains chronically under-funded,” it added.
The CBA also warned that barristers would be balloted on resuming strike action if the British government failed to stop the criminal justice system “tipping over the cliff edge”.
Lord chancellor and justice secretary Brandon Lewis (pictured) welcomed the outcome of the ballot.
Solicitors consider action
The Gazette said that, while the government might have done enough to end the bar’s strike action for now, its revised offer had left solicitors unhappy and mulling their own action.
Of the £54 million being offered, £19m is earmarked for solicitors. The Ministry of Justice says further uplifts for solicitors will be announced later this year.
The Law Society of England and Wales says, however, that the further investment is mainly a one-off, and will not increase rates in the long term, leaving solicitors still well below the 15% increase barristers are receiving.
Unless the government publicly commits to increasing the overall package for solicitors to a minimum 15%, the society will advise members not to do criminal legal-aid work.
The Gazette says that solicitors will be discussing their options at a Criminal Law Solicitors' Association conference this week.