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CBA No Returns Action

Statement from Jo Sidhu QC, Chair of The Criminal Bar Association – 09.04.22

On Monday 11th April 2022, criminal barristers across England & Wales will commence action to shine a spotlight on the severity of the ongoing crisis in the Criminal Justice System. The decision to take that action follows a ballot of members of the Criminal Bar Association in which 94% voted to withdraw their goodwill by no longer accepting return work.

We have made specific and reasonable demands that Government must act without further delay to address the chronic underfunding of the AGFS and, in particular, to implement an immediate and substantial improvement to fees in order to halt the alarming exodus of criminal barristers from publicly funded work. In responding to the recommendations of the Independent Review of Criminal Legal Aid [CLAR], Government has manifestly failed to recognise the scale of the crisis and to act with the urgency required.

Criminal barristers can no longer afford to wait and, with every passing week, increasing numbers are leaving our ranks to find alternative work that offers a viable career. Without sufficient prosecutors and defenders, thousands of victims and accused will continue to face years of delay and the backlog in cases will grow ever longer. Government must act now or answer to a public that has already grown weary of excuses.

Following the ballot, the Criminal Bar Association has been hugely encouraged by the countless declarations of support and solidarity from criminal chambers and barristers across all Circuits. We have also been immensely heartened by the public support of our colleagues in the solicitors’ profession who have similarly suffered alarming rates of attrition due to decades of low remuneration. As we move into a period of action, their cooperation will be critical in ensuring that no returns will be effective in persuading Government to act swiftly to restore public confidence in our criminal justice system.

To assist the Criminal Bar, we have prepared a short document summarising the key issues and demands that form the backdrop to this action. We trust that you will find it helpful.

We stand together. We are one Criminal Bar. Our voices will be heard.

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