The Bar Council is urging the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, to ensure the criminal justice system doesn’t collapse post-Covid-19 lockdown, by taking urgent measures to protect social order in the country.
Barristers across England and Wales, who have been identified as essential workers by the Government as they provide a vital public service to ensure the delivery of justice, are facing ruin with major knock-on effects for the wider justice system. The Bar Council, which represents all barristers in England and Wales, has written to the Treasury with a proposed rescue plan for the profession and today launches wider efforts to make the case to Government.
With most barristers being self-employed and many courts closed, the Bar Council has warned that many will not survive the financial impact of the lockdown and, as a result, justice will suffer.
Recent Bar Council research shows 53% of all self-employed barristers cannot survive six months and 74% cannot survive a year, unless the Government steps in with support. The situation is worse for barristers who work in criminal courts with 31% of criminal barristers not being able to continue to practice past July; 69% cannot last six months and 88% will no longer be practicing within a year. The impact is most severe on those from diverse backgrounds.
The worrying findings also revealed that 77% of self-employed barristers say people cannot properly access justice.
The Bar Council’s five key measures, making the case to the Treasury, are:
- Expand the types of acceptable evidence required to be eligible for self-employed relief, to include those under the £50,000 threshold who don’t have 2018/2019 tax returns.
- Increase the threshold above the £50,000 trading profit for self-employed barristers, to ensure that more junior barristers are eligible for relief, going some way to ensuring the sustainability of the profession.
- Extend business rates exemption relief to barristers’ chambers.
- Provide an urgent rescue package for publicly funded barristers who provide a vital public service but who are ineligible for the self-employed scheme.
- Provide an urgent rescue package for barristers’ chambers doing publicly funded work.
Amanda Pinto QC, Chair of the Bar Council, said: “Although the country is now planning for how it comes out of this crisis, things will not return to the normal we knew before. That goes for law and order too. This Government will not want to be responsible for a breakdown of social order as we emerge from this lockdown but, without barristers, the courts and wider justice system in this country will collapse. The Government must act now. We have written to the Treasury, setting out the risks of not stepping in to save the justice system and highlighting the fact that existing measures to help barristers do not go far enough. We must make the case to ensure that these essential workers – barristers - who have been instrumental in making sure law and order is maintained throughout this crisis, have not disappeared when we resurface from Covid-19.”
See the #MakeTheCase webpage to follow the Bar Council’s wider campaign.
Notes to editors
- Press office contact: Press@BarCouncil.org.uk | T: 020 7092 8175
- The Bar Council represents all barristers (around 17,000) in England and Wales. It promotes:
- The Bar’s high quality specialist advocacy and advisory services
- Fair access to justice for all
- The highest standards of ethics, equality and diversity across the profession, and
- The development of business opportunities for barristers at home and abroad.