London, Jul 4 (EFE).- Public defenders in England and Wales have entered the second week of a strike to demand a rise in fees for state-funded legal services.
The strike has paralyzed the criminal justice system amid a massive backlog of tens of thousands of cases.
More than a hundred barristers gathered on Monday dressed in their typical dark robes and white wigs to call for a pay rise in front of the Royal Courts of Justice in Westminster, central London.
“The vast majority of criminal cases are paid via legal aid, very few are funded privately,” Michelle Clarke, a defense lawyer, told Efe, in front of a group of lawyers carrying signs and banners with slogans such as “Crime Doesn’t Pay” and “Justice for Justice”.
“The Criminal Justice system is in urgent need of an injection of money. It’s not just us, it’s the entire system,” she added.
An independent report recommended an immediate 15% increase in legal fees, but the government has said it would only start applying the salary rise from September.
“With the backlog in the system, that means that we may not see any increase before 2023, 2024, 2025,” said Clarke, who fears that many of her colleagues will have left their roles as public defenders because they won’t be able to hold out that long.
“We already have a huge problem in retaining people because they just can’t make a living, particularly the junior barristers,” Clarke said.
In addition to London, demonstrations have also been called in other cities in England, such as Nottingham, Birmingham and Liverpool. EFE