Oxford Crown Court dealt with a fraction of its usual workload today, as judges worked around an England-wide barrister strike.
Members of the Criminal Bar Association staged a nationwide walkout as they demanded the government increase fees and rates for criminal Legal Aid work by 25 per cent. Ministers say they are ‘disappointed’ by the strike and have offered barristers a 15 per cent increase in fees ‘by the end of September’.
READ MORE: This is why barristers are going on strike
On Monday, only one trial could go ahead at Oxford Crown Court. One man – a drug dealer – was sentenced, while another was dealt with for breaching a suspended sentence order by failing to attend probation appointments.
That represented a fraction of the St Aldates courthouse’s typical workload for the Monday, where in a usual week at least three trials would be expected to start and judges would hear a number of sentencings.
At London’s Old Bailey, more than 50 barristers in their wigs and gowns crowded around the entrance to the famous court building. Picket lines were assembled outside other crown courts, although there was no picket in Oxford.
Barristers outside the Old Bailey on Monday morning Picture: PA WIRE
CBA chairman Jo Sidhu QC, speaking outside the Old Bailey, said: “Right now we are engulfed in a crisis of epic proportions that had never afflicted this country previously, which has brought almost to a standstill the system that we all love.
“Last year, we lost another 300 criminal barristers, why? Because they could not do this job anymore on what they were being paid, and for the hours that they were toiling.”
He added: “We are not a privileged species, we are the poor persons of the justice system.”
Junior barrister Alejandra Llorente Tascon, who earlier this month prosecuted a case at Oxford’s crown court, said: “We are on our knees, we cannot survive on below minimum wage. We cannot survive with the way in which we are being paid.”
The strike is expected to last two days this week, building up to a week-long walkout from July 18.
This story was written by Tom Seaward. He joined the team in 2021 as Oxfordshire’s court and crime reporter.
To get in touch with him email: Tom.Seaward@newsquest.co.uk
Follow him on Twitter: @t_seaward