Barristers were today picketing outside Bradford Crown Court as lawyers stepped up action against Government proposals to cut legal aid.

The dispute is escalating with the full-day strike and further action planned.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling is proposing changes to the criminal legal aid system, which include 20 per cent cuts in legal aid fees as part of £220 million savings.

Barristers and solicitors, nationally and locally, are opposed to the plans, which they claim will devastate the criminal justice system and mean that many defendants will not be properly represented.

A half-day stoppage by barristers – the first in legal history – took place in January in protest at the proposals.

The new action today, supported by city solicitors, followed Mr Grayling’s response to consultation on his plans.

Around 30 lawyers, wearing their wigs and gowns, were expected to picket outside court.

Nigel Hamilton, the Criminal Bar Association’s representative at Broadway House barrister’s chambers in Bradford, said a statement would be read by the head of chambers, Michelle Colborne QC.

Mr Hamilton said: “It is a full-day stoppage this time, and from today a number of barristers will not be taking work from colleagues who are unable to attend court for a particular case. It could mean defendants having to represent themselves. This will continue for a month.”

Mr Hamilton added: “Feelings are strengthening on this issue and the escalation of action is a measure of how deeply lawyers feel about this. We are dismayed that the Government is considering dismantling the justice system. It has refused to listen.”