Cases at Exeter Crown Court have been disrupted after barristers joined a day of strike action against low rates of pay for legal aid work.

A trial and a sentencing were both adjourned until August because there was no lawyer available to represent the defendant, while other cases went ahead without defence barristers.

All Crown Court have been affected by the two day stoppage which is aimed at forcing the Government to increase the amounts paid to advocates who appear on behalf of defendants who cannot afford to pay privately.

Legal aid lawyers in the Criminal Bar Association are taking two days of action this week, Monday and Tuesday, and more are planned unless an agreement can be reached.

The action does not include lawyers representing the prosecution or those who are paid privately by their clients.

The first case affected by the action was that of 41-year-old Gary Parkinson, who appeared unrepresented before Judge David Evans.

The case was listed for him to enter a plea, which had been notified in advance to the court, and which he did in the absence of his lawyer.

Parkinson, of Forda Mill, Clawton, near Holsworthy, admitted conspiracy to supply class A drugs between October 2019 and February 2020.

Judge Evans released him on bail and he will be sentenced after the trial to two co-defendants, who have denied the same charge. Their case went ahead with their defence barristers attending remotely by video link.

The trial of a man from Weston-super-Mare who is accused of assaulting a fellow inmate at Exeter Prison was also adjourned because he was unrepresented.

Michael Marlow, aged 35, of Grasmere Drive, Weston-super-Mare, denies causing actual bodily harm to James Symonds during an incident in September.

Miss Felicity Payne, prosecuting, said the case has been reviewed and Marlow’s offer to plead guilty to the lesser offence of assault by battery will be accepted when the case returns to court on August 8.

She said it is now accepted that his contribution to the incident was a single punch.

Co-defendant Curtis Ford, aged 29, of Baildon Road, Weston-super-Mare, was jailed for 16 months at an earlier hearing after admitted causing grievous bodily harm.

The next case to be affected by the action was the sentence of Simon Watts, aged 57, who was found guilty of 22 offences of historic abuse and admitted four more at a trial in April.

His defence barrister did not attend and Judge Evans adjourned his sentence until August 8.

The only case which was able to reach a conclusion was Albert Day, aged 65, of Combe Martin, North Devon, who was also accused of historic abuse against three girls.

The jury in his trial went out to consider their verdicts on Friday and found him guilty of all but two of 12 charges, including one of rape.

His case was adjourned for sentence next month and he was remanded in custody by Judge Timothy Rose.