Early and late sittings will be piloted in civil and family courts, the Justice Minister announced, ditching plans to extend hours in criminal courts.

Lucy Frazer QC said two courts in Manchester and Brentford will test the voluntary scheme for six months from the spring, with an independent evaluation. She said that ministers had listened to the profession’s concerns and will not pilot the scheme in criminal courts.

Bar Chair, Andrew Walker QC said the proposals would have threatened the recruitment and retention of a diverse profession and the wellbeing of criminal barristers, and voiced concern over the practicality of the scheme in the civil and family courts, where barristers were already ‘working under enormous strain’.