UK trial lawyers stage walkouts in funding dispute

LONDON, June 27 (Reuters) – British lawyers involved in criminal trials will stage a strike on Monday in a dispute over government funding, refusing to take on new cases or cover cases for colleagues who have overstayed.

Lawyers voted for action earlier this month with more than 80% of its 2,055 members backing the walkouts, the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) said.

Lawyers involved in criminal cases say real earnings have plummeted, falling 28% since 2006, with young lawyers earning a median income of just 12,200 pounds ($15,030) in their first three years, forcing many to give up their careers.

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Justice Minister Dominic Raab said the walkouts were regrettable and the lawyers had been offered a 15% pay rise. However, the ABC said the current proposal would not come forward until late 2023 at the earliest.

“The system was in crisis and is still in crisis, and the reason for the action is really to prevent its collapse,” Kirsty Brimelow, vice-president of the ABC, told BBC radio. “If we carry on as we are, there simply won’t be enough lawyers left to prosecute and defend these cases.”

UK courts already have a backlog of some 58,000 cases, partly exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the ABC says the court system has long been in deep trouble due to a shortage of lawyers.

The legal profession walkouts, which will take place for five days over the next four weeks, come after last week’s strikes by some 40,000 railway workers brought much of Britain’s rail network to a standstill.

Teachers and healthcare workers are also considering a strike, while workers employed by British Airways at London Heathrow have also voted for industrial action, threatening chaos at Britain’s biggest airport over the summer holidays .

($1 = 0.8117 pounds)

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Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Kate Holton

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