The chair of the Bar of Northern Ireland has said there is a risk that there will be no barristers left to ensure that Northern Ireland’s justice system continues to function after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sarah Ramsey QC was commenting after a survey by the body showed a big drop in court hearings and other work, despite efforts by the legal profession, judiciary and the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service to conduct urgent hearings and deliver justice remotely.
She described the findings as “stark and concerning”.
Almost a quarter of Bar members are doing 0% of their normal work volume, with 53% having less than 10% of their normal workload.
The Bar says the pandemic is creating significant financial uncertainty, with the potential for a “devastating” effect on the profession’s sustainability.
55% of members of the bar in Northern Ireland say they are experiencing more than four-week delays in receiving payment, while 86% predict that the pandemic will have a detrimental impact on the viability of their practices.
53% say that if the current situation persists until September their practices will fail or become unsustainable. 34% of those who might survive say they expect to have significant financial difficulty.