However the decision – made in an emergency meeting of the CBA Executive – to accept the offer in its two-day window prompted “angry criticism” from barristers, chambers and solicitors that the full membership was not consulted and that the deal was “anti-solicitor”, effectively splitting apart the professions.

CBA Chair Nigel Lithman QC explained: “It was not practicable to ballot the Bar in the time frame. At the same time, the Circuits consulted or met with Heads of Chambers on their individual Circuits. The vote was overwhelming in favour from five of the Circuits, the Heads of Chambers on the South East Circuit who were informed were 100%.” He added: “We genuinely believed we could get you no better [deal].”

Calls for an extraordinary general meeting precipitated a full ballot of the CBA membership in April. An unprecedented turnout saw 1,878 votes cast: 1,249 voted to accept the deal and suspend further action (66.51%); whilst 629 (33.49%) voted to continue action until all cuts have been abandoned. Welcoming the mandate, Lithman said that this was the “first step” of a “long road ahead” and that the views of the one-third who “felt obvious misgivings about how the Bar would be impacted upon by cuts and dual contracts being imposed on solicitors… will not be ignored”.

“Whilst the CBA has naturally concentrated on removing the imminent threat of cuts to the junior Bar, it knows that this has to be seen within a broader context. We will thus now hope to reengage with solicitors and hold constructive talks. “The immediate task to hand is for the leadership to reunite the membership as we move forward in pursuit of an ever more secure criminal Bar.”

Bar Chairman Nicholas Lavender QC said the deal was “testament to the profession’s commitment to speaking with one voice in making sincere and evidence-based arguments, steeped in the public interest”.

“In the interests of building sustainable and high quality legal representation, we should take this opportunity to move forwards, by engaging with the reviews... resuming normal working relationships with our partners in the criminal justice system and calling off any further days of action.”

Criminal Law Solicitors Association Chair Bill Waddington expressed his disappointment at the deal, noting that the “more substantial” concessions to the Bar “may well reflect their unity and militancy”. Together with the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Assocation, it is coordinating a “fast moving, rolling programme” of direct action, including withdrawal days from Crown Courts. Having received “positive counsel”, they are also raising funds to challenge the Ministry’s handling of the legal aid cuts through judicial review.