Crown courts across England and Wales are being flooded with bail and adjournment applications ahead of the all-out strike by criminal legal aid barristers, the Gazette has learned. Judges and lawyers have told the Gazette that there is 'chaos' in some Crown court sites, due in part to the lack of updated guidance from the senior judiciary, since the Criminal Bar Association announced the results of the ballot to escalate the protest action over legal aid rates. The indefinite walkout begins on 5 September but many courts are expected to grind to a halt this Friday as a strike was already scheduled for next week.
One criminal QC, who did not want to be named, told the Gazette that when the initial 'days of action' and intermittent walk outs began in June, judges were told that trials were to remain listed, rather than prepare for any potential ineffectiveness owing to a lack of advocate. But now, with the prospect of an indefinite strike, defendants whose trials have been listed or whose custody time limits are due to expire, want to make applications for bail or to have their cases adjourned, before they are left without an advocate to represent them. Another criminal QC said that courts were doing things differently around the country, because of the lack of guidance. 'It’s all a bit hit and miss,' the barrister said. One judge told the Gazette that colleagues are following earlier guidance, and therefore not hearing bail applications, but advising defence solicitors to make written applications to present to judges on the day the trial is listed. Trials that have already started face the prospect of being delayed part-heard for weeks, said one defence QC.