The criminal bar has recommended direct action over legal aid cuts begin on 27 July after barristers voted in favour of supporting solicitors who are currently boycotting new legal aid work.

Members of the Criminal Bar Association voted in favour of no new work and ‘no returns’ to support solicitors’ action by 982 votes to 795 – equating to 55% in favour and 45% against – though on a low turnout of about 45%.

However, the executive committee said this morning that it ‘recognises that the vote represents the will of the CBA’s members and it has therefore decided to put in place a protocol to ensure that those taking action comply with their professional obligations’.

The committee said those who had already complied with the protocol were free to begin earlier. It stated that each committee executive member had independenty agreed to abide by the protocol.

The committee expected members ‘will respect those not taking part, and likewise those not taking part will not seek to take unfair advantage of those who are’.

Meanwhile discussions ‘will continue’ with the Ministry of Justice and relevant solicitors’ bodies, the committee said.

Bill Waddington (pictured) and Jonathan Black, heads of the Criminal Law Solicitors' Association and London Criminal Courts Solicitors' Association, said in a joint statement that they hoped 'to work together' with the criminal bar 'as a united force to bring the lord chancellor to the table to hear the concerns of solicitors and barristers, who have traditionally formed formidable teams at the heart of the criminal justice system'.

Several chambers across the country, particularly in the north-west, have already adopted ‘no returns’ and are refusing work with a representation order dated from 1 July.

Justice secretary Michael Gove said he was ‘disappointed’ by the CBA results but stressed he was still willing to talk to practitioners.

Appearing before the justice select committee yesterday morning, he said he hoped to continue to work with the CBA leadership and Bar Council to address a number of ‘perfectly legitimate’ concerns.