Criminal barristers are demoralised over their earnings and could paralyse the criminal justice system by boycotting work on crown court trials listed to last up to two weeks, the government is warned today.
Of more than 1,000 respondents to a survey by the Criminal Bar Association - nearly half the membership - 97% want the association to explore the possibility of direct action, and four in five say they would be prepared to take action themselves.
Any boycott would affect 95% of the cases going through the crown courts in England and Wales, including child sex abuse, rapes, burglaries, robberies, muggings, and the less complicated murders.
David Spens QC, chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, said: "The criminal bar is saying enough is enough. We have been taken for granted by successive governments, who have exploited misinformation about the legal aid system to drive down fees to the point at which my members are often being asked to work for free.
"For a profession which prosecutes and defends cases in the public interest, the situation is now intolerable."