Legal aid protests
Members of the Criminal Bar Association plan to walkout over a 8.75% cut to legal aid fees Getty

Criminal courts across England and Wales face temporary closure after barristers voted to walk out in protest over the government's legal aid cuts.

Members of the Criminal Bar Association (CBA), which represents almost 4,000 lawyers, voted 55% for and 45% against the industrial action.

The organisation said the purpose of the planned action is to support solicitors as they fight against Michael Gove's 8.75% cut to legal aid fees, which came into force on 1 July.

The strike ballot asked CBA members whether they would be prepared to refuse to accept new work with a representation order dated after 1st July 2015 and to refuse returned work ('no returns').

The 'no returns' policy is a withdrawal of goodwill by criminal barristers, who typically travel to courts at short notice to cover hearings in colleagues' cases where diary clashes arise.

The CBA said its executive will meet later today (15 July) to discuss the industrial action and an annual general meeting (AGM) will be conducted afterwards at 6.30pm.

Gove, the justice secretary, said he was disappointed that the CBA voted for the action and he conceded that the lawyers were motivated by their concern for justice, rather than their own self-interest.

The top Tory, speaking in front of the House of Commons' Justice Committee, also said he wanted to continue working with the Bar Council and the CBA.

In a statement, he later said he thought that it was "interesting" that the vote was "closer than many might have anticipated".

"The first thing I should say is that I have developed an admiration for Tony Cross, for the people who lead the CBA over the course of the meetings I have had with them," he added.

"I don't believe the leadership believe that action was necessary at this time, I think they recognise that we want to work constructively with them and with the bar in order to ensure that we continue to have a healthy independent criminal bar its one of my top priorities.

"And I hope that not withstanding the vote today which I think may be the consequence of bruised feelings in the past as much as anything else, not withstanding that vote that I can continue to work with the leadership of the CBA and with the bar council to address a number of concerns which I think are perfectly legitimate."

The latest move from the CBA comes after lawyers in London, represented by the London Criminal Courts Solicitors' Association (LCCSA), started their own action on 1 July.

Jon Black, the president of the organisation, said at the time: "We have overwhelming support for this action, which regrettably is necessary as a result of the government's intention to implement the proposed further cuts amounting to over 50% on some cases for January 2016, without carrying out the promised meaningful review.

"Had the government listened to our representations they would know that these cuts are not only unnecessary but dangerous."