Bar Council Survey Reveals Beleaguered Justice System
New data reveals the reduction in work faced by UK barristers and the dire need for financial aid.
The Bar Council’s July survey of the barristers’ profession has been released, with results that illustrate the damage dealt to the justice system by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The most immediately concerning portions of the survey indicate that public legal practitioners are struggling to remain afloat in these extraordinary circumstances. According to the results, publicly funded barristers have seen a 69% reduction in fee income, while self-employed barristers have seen a 59% drop in fee income in addition to their work hours being halved.
Morale in the profession is also in decline: a full 38% of criminal barristers are unsure if they will still be practising law by 2020, and 16% of self-employed barristers said that they wanted to leave the Bar – especially notable as this figure has not risen above 4% in the past 20 years.
Most alarming, just 22% of barristers 0-2 years in practice will survive more than a year without financial help, with 34% of those 0-2 years in practice having already experienced financial hardship in April. As of the July release, this figure has now risen to 42%.
Further results of the survey indicate that the impact of COVID-19 on the justice system has also affected the general public; 80% of barristers do not feel that the public is currently able to access justice at an acceptable level, despite hopes that the Bar’s recovery would be accelerated by the reopening of courts and tribunals.
“The huge drop in working hours, brought about by courts not operating at anywhere near capacity, has a direct impact on the public – barristers not working means citizens cannot access justice now,” explained Amanda Pinto QC, Chair of the Bar, in a comment on the results.
“Recovery looks a long way off and, when barristers cannot afford to stay in their profession, the public will lose out on vital help in exercising their legal rights. The government cannot avoid intervening any longer.”