UK: Lawyers pledge to boycott extended court hours

The UK Law Gazette reports

Almost 400 solicitors and barristers have signed an open letter to HM Courts & Tribunals Service, refusing to attend a ‘single court listing outside of regular court hours’. The Ministry of Justice responded today by denying the existence of any plan for weekend sittings.

The signatories – consisting of lawyers who regularly attend the criminal courts – claim that the government has ‘overseen the obliteration’ of the profession, despite repeated warnings. ‘It has been entirely unmoved by respected legal aid firms closing down, duty solicitors and criminal barristers leaving the profession in droves, and pupils and trainees earning less than the real living wage. It has left the courts – our places of work – leaking, filthy and broken.’


The MoJ announced that judges will have the option to open courtrooms for longer

The lawyers, including eight QCs, said their ‘goodwill has run dry’ and that they will not attend court listings outside of court hours ‘under any circumstances’.

‘We are expected to attend hearings during our evenings and weekends when we need to spend time with our families, and to recuperate from exhausting days and nights in courts and police stations, in order to fix a disaster which is entirely of the government’s own making. We are told to do so for no extra funds, without our representative bodies having been consulted in advance.’

They added that they want to clear the backlog a sustainable way ‘which affords dignity to ourselves, our clients, and court staff’.

Last month, the Ministry of Justice announced that judges will have the option to open courtrooms for longer under new ‘temporary operating hours’, proposing two models that would run alongside standard operating hours.