Following a poll organised by the Criminal Bar Association (CBA), Criminal barristers in England and Wales have voted - by a 90% majority - to turn down new publicly funded cases and to stage mass walkouts, starting from 1 April.
The protest has been triggered by the revised Advocates Graduated Fee Scheme (AGFS), which is seen as the 'final straw' by many barristers who - like many legal professionals - have been suffering downward pressure on incomes as a result of recent legislation.
Chair of the CBA, Angela Rafferty QC, said
We announce this action today with heavy hearts.
The [criminal justice] system is desperate, as we are she continued.
We are informing our members today that they should consider not taking any work from April 1, the implementation date of the reforms.
The action is strongly supported by members of the CBA: Out of 2,317 votes cast, 2,081 were in favour of taking action. Several prominent barristers' chambers have already announced they will support the action.
Cases already under way will not be affected, as the called-for action is to refuse new work, although the CBA is also planning mass walkout days, where barristers will boycott the courts.
The public accounts committee in 2016 said the criminal justice system was at breaking point Rafferty continued.
The lack of funding [...] has resulted in near-collapse. You cannot have a national asset and treat it like this.
The relentless cuts and refusal to recognise the importance of a principled, and not political, approach has left us all reeling. We must vociferously lead the campaign to stop this downward spiral.
Criminal solicitors are themselves fighting cuts in fees - estimated to be between 5-6% for crown court trials - with the Law Society taking legal action against the government, and warning that the changes will lead to an increase in incidents of miscarriages of justice.