Courts could grind to a halt next week after barristers voted to go on strike.
The Criminal Bar Association (CBA) said its members in England and Wales will walk out over a dispute about legal aid funding.
It’s the latest blow to the government in what is threatening to build into a summer of industrial action.
The barristers’ actions will add to the huge backlog facing the UK’s creaking court system.
Judges are battling to get through the huge amount of criminal cases left in limbo when Covid-19 closed the courts.
As of April 2022, there were 358,076 outstanding cases at magistrates’ courts, and 58,271 outstanding cases at crown courts.
The CBA said around 81.5% of the more than 2,000 members to respond supported industrial action.
Jo Sidhu QC and Kirsty Brimelow QC, from the CBA, said ‘what is at stake is the survival of a profession of specialist criminal advocates and of the criminal justice system which depends so critically upon their labour’.
A statement continued: ‘Without immediate action to halt the exodus of criminal barristers from our ranks, the record backlog that has crippled our courts will continue to inflict misery upon victims and defendants alike, and the public will be betrayed.’
The strike action is intended to last for four weeks, beginning with walkouts on Monday June 27 and Tuesday June 28, increasing by one day each week until a five-day strike from Monday July 18 to Friday July 22.
Barristers are expected to stage picket lines outside court, including at the Old Bailey in London and at crown courts in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Leeds and Manchester.
Mark Fenhalls QC, chairman of the Bar Council, said: ‘Each barrister who has voted is understandably angry and upset.
‘Members of the criminal Bar have been feeling mistreated, undervalued and overwhelmed for a decade or more.’
With civil servants, health workers, postal staff and BT engineers possibly set to strike, the government is reportedly poised to repeal a key piece of trade union legislation.
The change would allow organisations to draft in agency staff to replace workers on strike, effectively making it easier for bosses to circumvent industrial action.
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