Criminal courts across England and Wales will be severely disrupted on Monday morning when barristers and solicitors stage an unprecedented mass walkout in protest at government plans to slash legal aid fees by up to 30%.
It is the first time barristers have withdrawn their labour, according to the Criminal Bar Association, and the first time the two wings of the legal profession have taken co-ordinated, national action.
Thousands of barristers and solicitors working on publicly funded cases are refusing to enter court for a half-day demonstration aimed at forcing the justice secretary, Chris Grayling, into a last-minute rethink of proposals designed to save £220m a year.
Lawyers have been careful to avoid describing the action as a strike because that would raise questions about contractual obligations to the Legal Aid Agency. But criminal barristers say the protest reflects mounting resentment over successive reductions in legal aid fees, which have already resulted in cuts of 40% for criminal cases since 1997.