Warning of disruption to Leeds court as barristers' strike enters second month

Leeds Crown Court
Leeds Crown Court

COURT cases in Leeds could be disrupted as a row deepens between striking barristers and the Government, legal experts have warned.

Many criminal law barristers, who are self-employed, have been refusing to take on new taxpayer-funded cases since April 1 in protest at changes to the fees being brought in by the Government.

The Criminal Bar Association has warned it could escalate the action, with Leeds Crown Court among those affected.

It said the legal system was “in crisis and has broken”, in a statement co-signed by Nigel Sangster QC, leader of the North-East Circuit, which covers Yorkshire.

The statement added: “Our profession cannot wait whilst the onslaught of cuts continue.”

Now judges in parts of the North have begun asking solicitors to stand in for barristers at some hearings - a move resisted by solicitors’ body the Law Society.

The society has warned that it is now only a matter of time before the strike begins to disrupt many hundreds of cases being heard across the region’s crown courts, including Leeds.

The House of Commons will today hold a debate on the situation and the changes to fees which sparked it.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice insisted the reforms were not a cut to barristers’ fees.

He said they were cost-neutral when compared to the fees paid out in 2016/17.

He said: “We are extremely disappointed with the position the Criminal Bar Association has taken, especially given that they and other members of the Bar participated fully in the design of the scheme.”

Labour’s shadow justice secretary and Leeds East MP Richard Burgon has warned that the Government “can’t do justice on the cheap”.