Lawyers and Probation Service Staff March on Ministry of Justice in Legal Aid ProtestIBTimes UK

Hundreds of lawyers and National Probation Service staff have protested outside the Ministry of Justice against government cuts to legal aid and the privatisation of offender rehabilitation services.

The combined demonstration, part of a 48-hour strike which was echoed in other major cities across the country, saw the groups march from the Houses of Parliament to the Ministry of Justice with signs reading "Probation Not For Sale" and "Save UK Justice". Some demonstrators carried an effigy of justice secretary Chris Grayling.

Rallies took place in protest at MoJ plans to cut £215m from the £2bn annual cost of legal aid in England and Wales.

"We are in a dreadful fight to save a system that's on the point of collapse caused by a Tory government who has no idea of the damage they're doing," Edward Preston, a senior partner at London law firm Edward Fail, Bradshaw & Waterson, told IBTimes UK.

"[Grayling] has no respect for the rule of law, he doesn't care about the rule of law and he thinks the rule of law can somehow be undermined by a pursuit of profit."

But the MoJ argued that the country's £2bn legal aid budget makes it "one of the most expensive legal aid systems in the world".

"We've always said we want to do all that we can to help lawyers facing fee cuts," said Shailesh Vara, the Legal Aid minister.

"We've spoken at length with them and made changes to our initial plan as a result.

"But this government is dealing with an unprecedented financial challenge and the Ministry of Justice has no choice but to significantly reduce the amount it spends each year."

Demonstrations also took place in Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, Hull, Liverpool and Birmingham with protesters wishing Grayling a "Happy Birthday".