Rob Rinder Brilliantly Explains Why Barristers Are Striking And The Importance Of Legal Aid

"No lawyer for you unless you’ve got money," says TV judge.

TV judge Robert Rinder has made a fierce defence of barristers about to go on strike, arguing access to justice will be restricted “unless you’ve got money”.

The lawyer-turned-TV personality added he would strike alongside fellow barristers because he feels that curbs to legal aid would mean “our justice is meaningless”.

What’s happening?

Members of the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) in England and Wales voted over the weekend in favour of an indefinite, uninterrupted strike from September 5.

They are embroiled in a row over jobs and government-set fees for publicly-funded representation for defendants who cannot afford to pay, known as legal aid advocacy work.

Aren’t barristers well paid?

Barristers argue that while work in private corporate law can bring in six-figure salaries, criminal barristers are not paid as well. And new criminal barristers can take home less than £10,000 once costs are taken into account.

The Ministry of Justice’s 15% fee rise from the end of September – meaning barristers will earn £7,000 more per year – will not apply to case sitting in the backlog waiting to be dealt with by courts because of the pandemic.

The fear is barristers will quit in greater numbers, leading to more “legal aid deserts”.

With hundreds of barrister expected to strike, the action has the potential to see the criminal justice system in crown courts grind to a halt, and increase the backlog of cases caused by the pandemic.

What did Rob Rinder say?

During Tuesday’s episode of ITV’s Good Morning Britain, barrister and TV personality Rinder spoke about why he supports the all-out strike action.

The 44-year-old said: “I am still a member of my great chambers and I would tell you I would be without question on strike.”

He clarified that the strike action is not for the private barristers who represent famous faces but the public lawyers taking on cases for everyday people through legal aid.

Reflecting on the democracy of the system, he said: “If there is no access to justice, no rule of law, talking about Margaret Thatcher, she banged on about, quite correctly, our justice is meaningless.

“Civil legal aid – gone. If you’ve got a family issue, you might be abused by your spouse – forget about it, no lawyer for you unless you’ve got money. Unless you are the ultra-privileged – forget about it.

“A kid with special educational needs – you’ve got a statutory right? No chance.”

The criminal barrister – best known for his ITV show Judge Rinder – said there is now a five-year wait for some legal aid cases due to issues with the system.

Reflecting on why he feels the legal aid system is important, he said: “In this country, one of the things that we should be most proud of is that, if you’re accused of a serious offence, as a matter of law, you get, or you did get, the same standard of defence as the prosecution.

“That meant that our justice system was safe and secure.

“Of course, it’s hard to make a case for people at home who go ‘But they’re guilty’. Well (that’s) all very well until it happens to you. Or if you’re a victim, where’s the justice there? You need good lawyers.”

He added: “We’re talking about the fairness of criminal justice. And I’m going to repeat this – people’s freedom.

“Being accused, wrongly perhaps of an offence, and victims. We’re now five years, in some cases, into getting a trial that’s because of the under-investment in our criminal courts for all of this time.”

Rinder said these issues and the financial pressures, particularly on new lawyers who can have up to £100,000 worth of student debt while on minimum wage salaries, can push some into going into private practice.

“The reality is they do not want to strike, they don’t go into it to be rich; they go into it because they love this country and they believe in justice under the rule of law,” he added.

“And I have to say it is a scandal and one that both parties, certainly the Labour Party, should be supporting.”

What does the government say?

In an op-ed in the Daily Mail, justice secretary Dominic Raab criticised the CBA for their industrial action.

He wrote: “As justice secretary, I hear time and again that all victims truly want is the justice they deserve. My message to the CBA is simple.

“We are increasing your pay. Now your actions are only harming victims, increasing the court backlog, and hampering our efforts to make our streets safer.”


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