Ministry of Justice data published yesterday show the criminal bar’s escalated action over legal aid funding is biting hard. For seven weeks from 9 May, when criminal barristers were refusing to cover ‘returned’ cases, the proportion of hearings that were disrupted ranged from 1.6% to 2.5%. However, the figure jumped to 8.8% for the week commencing 27 June, when barristers across the country staged a two-day court walkout. Court walkouts have increased by one day each week, so future statistics should show an even higher number of disrupted hearings. Next week will see court walkouts on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
The latest data was revealed in a written parliamentary response. Justice minister Sarah Dines said: ‘It remains our priority to ensure that justice is served, and we encourage the Criminal Bar Association to work with us – the decrease in outstanding cases in the Crown court shows what is possible when we work together.’ Dines, who joined the MoJ just a few days ago, met Bar Council and CBA chiefs earlier this week. The CBA said it had made strong representations to the minister about its ‘entirely reasonable’ demands.