A new survey of barristers who work on rape and serious sexual offence (RASSO) cases warns that the shortage of specialist barristers qualified to do this work will increase as more practitioners opt out of this type of work.

The survey, conducted by the Criminal Bar Association (CBA), found that 64% of prosecutors said they will not be reapplying to be on the RASSO list, and 66% of defence counsel said they no longer wanted to conduct RASSO cases.

Six out of ten of those surveyed cited poor fee levels as a reason and half pointed to the impact on their wellbeing.

Commenting, Chair of the Bar Council Sam Townend KC, said:

“Rape and serious sexual offence cases are amongst the most challenging of cases for any barrister practising in criminal work. Horrifying personal experiences lie behind each one. This takes its toll on anyone doing the essential work to put these cases to a fair trial. The publicly funded criminal Bar does brilliant work in hugely difficult circumstances.

“The results of the CBA survey provide a clear picture why this workforce is declining in numbers: poor pay, unpredictable working times and locations, and depressed wellbeing. It is highly significant that over three quarters of barristers under five years of experience surveyed have said they will not consider working in this area.

“The Bar Council will work with the Government and the CBA to seek to do whatever is needed to support and grow this limited group of barristers doing this important work. Financial investment in what is a fundamental public service is, however, an essential part of any solution.”