Narrow vote for £15m MoJ offer for reading fees unlikely to end anger within profession
Members of the Criminal Bar Association voted by 51.55% to 48.45% to accept the offer to raise payment rates for reading trial documents. Photograph: Alastair Grant/AP
Criminal barristers have voted by a narrow margin to call off industrial action over fees, which has been disrupting court cases in England and Wales for the past few months.
By a margin of 51.55% to 48.45%, members of the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) accepted a £15m offer from the Ministry of Justice to raise payment rates for reading documents in trials.
The outcome of the ballot is unlikely to end anger within the legal profession of what it sees as sustained under-funding of the criminal justice system.
More than 3,000 barristers specialising in criminal work – representing most active practitioners – took part in the vote.
Angela Rafferty QC, the chair of the CBA, said: “Whilst the majority wishes to accept the proposal, it cannot be said that the anger and disillusionment has gone away. Indeed it is exceptionally strong. The criminal bar is not going to be quiet.
“The damage done in recent decades will not be undone in weeks, or perhaps years. This proposal is the beginning and not the end of our campaign to improve the broken system we all work in every day. We still face exceptional difficulties, as do our solicitor colleagues. This will not fix the terrible conditions, the unhealthy and unreasonably onerous working practices and the general decrepitude. However if we consider it a start we can build on it.”
She said the result was neither a defeat nor a victory but a step forward. “We must all ensure we do not take any more steps back.”