Barristers have held a ‘gathering’ outside Preston Crown Court in a pay dispute over legal aid.

They were joined by hundreds of other criminal defence barristers who are picketing at different locations across the country, including a picket outside the Supreme Court.

Barristers gathered outside the courthouse in Preston this morning (July 11) at 9am, with speeches taking place at 10am before they left the site just before midday.

The barristers were due to be outside the court house until 1pm but gave no reason for their early departure when approached by the Lancashire Telegraph.

Lancashire Telegraph: The barristers had left the front of the Lancashire court house just before 12pmThe barristers had left the front of the Lancashire court house just before 12pm

The Criminal Bar Association (CBA) is keen to stress that the action today be referred to as gatherings and not pickets or picket lines.

Barristers involved in legal-aid defence work from all courts in England and Wales have already taken part in two and three-day walk-outs over the last two weeks.

Hundreds of cases have been disrupted in the county with more expected to be adjourned as the strikes look to continue.

The gatherings today mark week three of escalated CBA action involving court walk-outs and refusal of new defence instructions under AGFS (criminal legal aid scheme for defence advocates), over ongoing action in relation to Government-set fees for criminal legal aid advocacy work, which began back in April.

Lancashire Telegraph: Barristers held the 'gathering' outside Preston Crown CourtBarristers held the 'gathering' outside Preston Crown Court

There will be further action on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week.

There will then be a five-day walk-out the following week, meaning thousands upon thousands of criminal cases will be disrupted across the entire country.

Criminal defence barrister court walk-outs will then take place every other week for a full week, with no end date, and with the 'strikes' remaining under review and subject to the response from the Government.

The Criminal Bar Association action is aimed at redressing the shortfall in the supply of criminal barristers to help deal with the crisis in our courts.

Jo Sidhu QC, chair, and Kirsty Brimelow QC, vice chair, of the Criminal Bar Association, said: “There is a recognition amongst criminal barristers at all levels of call and across all Circuits that what is at stake is the survival of a profession of specialist criminal advocates and of the criminal justice system

"Without immediate action to halt the exodus of criminal barristers from our ranks, the record backlog that has crippled our courts will continue to inflict misery upon victims and defendants alike, and the public will be betrayed.

"Our unity is our strength.”

Criminal barristers voted overwhelmingly last month in favour of escalating the action that had commenced on April 11, to include criminal defence barristers walking out until their demands have been met.

The Ministry of Justice said on June 30 it would give criminal barristers a 15 per cent pay rise, which it claims is "very generous", but barristers have rejected the proposals as not being enough.