Criminal barristers day of action and the no returns policy

From Friday, 7 March 2014, criminal barristers undertaking legal aid work will be following a policy of “no returns” in the ongoing protests to cut a further £220 million to legal aid resulting in a 30% cut to VHCC and serious and complex criminal cases such as fraud. Today is also a day of action taken by barristers who will not appear in crown courts across England and Wales.

Monitoring of the “No Returns Policy”

As of today, criminal barristers who support the ongoing action against the cuts will refuse to appear in court on a “returned” case where the barrister who has been instructed, is unable to appear for that hearing.

As has been pointed out by the Criminal Bar Association, the system of returns is an important function provided by criminal barristers and integral to the smooth functioning of the criminal courts. It has correctly been described as a” goodwill understanding between independent self-employed barristers that helps to maintain the efficient running of the criminal courts”.

The full text of the Criminal Bar Association’s policy on no returns can be found be found below:

The CBA has asked all barristers who are required to return a case to take part in a monitoring exercise of that case by emailing information regarding the case. The details are given below.

For the past two decades criminal barristers have seen stagnation in pay rates and successive governments reducing legal aid fees further. The further proposals by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling present perhaps the gravest threat to the criminal justice system that this country has faced in modern times. There is an imminent danger that should these cuts come into place they will see the collapse of the Criminal Bar as a independent, specialist referral profession representing amongst the vulnerable sections of society. Many criminal lawyers, who undertake legal aid work, both solicitors and barristers, will be forced to leave the profession leaving many defendants accused of the most serious criminal offences with poor and inadequate representation. The CBA warns “The independent Criminal Bar cannot survive such cuts and the fabric of the criminal justice system will be ripped apart as a result.” Miscarriages of justice are an inevitable consequence.

Monitoring the ‘No Returns’ Policy:

From Monday, the ‘No Returns’ policy will be in effect. To help us monitor its efficacy, we would ask all CBA members who are obliged to return a case, to keep an eye on its progress where possible and email us the following information:

Case Name:
Court Centre:
Due to be heard on:
Purpose of hearing:
Did another counsel/HCA attend in your stead:

By way of example, your email might look like this:

Case Name: R v Smith
Court Centre: Snaresbrook CC
Due to be heard on: March 11th
Purpose of hearing: Sentence
Did another counsel/HCA attend in your stead: No
Outcome: Hearing adjourned

We appreciate this may involve a little work on your part, but proper monitoring will allow us gauge how effective the policy is.

Emails should be sent to

We think the effect will be seen by the MOJ very quickly. We will monitor it to protect the juniors and in order to do so will review it on a weekly basis.
We have of course taken account of the correspondence that we have received on the topic.

HERE is a fuller explanation of the RATIONALE for the policy and a longer list of FAQS

HERE is a PROTOCOL for refusal of returns if that is what you choose to do. The protocol document appears below.

Day of Action Update:

• We will be shortly circulating details of action due to take place within your specific region of the country.
• The Training afternoon that follows the London March has been awarded 2.5 CPD

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