This is a snapshot of the disastrous pay scale for UK criminal barristers. You may remember Ana Soubry who used to be a member of Parliament. She returned to her life as a criminal barrister in 2019 and discovered that the pay under legal aid cases is appalling. She said that after expenses on one case she got £12 an hour. On that basis she is not surprised that many barristers have left the profession. The UK national minimum wage is £9.50 per hour.
She tweeted her disappointment and received a reply from another barrister, Oliver Thorne. He said that he recently made £46.50 p on a rape case. He said:
“Same day my dog was an extra on Emmerdale. He earned £50”.
Criminal barristers are highly qualified individuals. It takes many years to be qualified. It is a challenging job and people’s lives are often at stake. It is therefore a highly responsible job as well.
In the UK, legal aid supports defendants who can’t afford legal representation. You have to make an application on a form and send it to the Legal Aid Board. Over the years they have gradually made it more and more difficult to obtain legal aid and the rates of pay have been frozen. There has been a general discontent among criminal law barristers for many years now. The present Conservative government I believe has taken notice of this and done something about it.
The government website states that criminal legal aid lawyers are set for the biggest pay boost in a decade under wide-ranging reforms proposed by the government. That post was made on 15 March 2022. An extra £135 million will be spent on legal aid every year following an independent review of fees. It’s probably too little too late.
It isn’t just the barristers who are underpaid. The facilities apparently are under-maintained and as I recall there was a general breakdown in the computer software or computer systems at one time. Underfunding seems to be the byword in order to try and save money. You can push this so far until you have a breakdown in justice.
Arguably, there is a breakdown in justice in the UK as a tiny percentage of rape cases are concluded satisfactorily. The police don’t investigate theft or burglary. The police are not respected any more for a range of good reasons. Daily we are reading about some pretty horrendous stories coming out of the Metropolitan Police in terms of misogyny, homophobia, generally poor behaviour, and hiring 100 new police officers who have criminal convictions. The list goes on.