Wig-wearing British lawyers swap courtrooms for street protest over legal aid cuts

Thousands of British lawyers have stayed away from court to protest legal aid cuts that they fear will devastate the country's respected justice system.

Dozens of court hearings were canceled across the country Friday, and hundreds of lawyers in black robes and white wigs marched on Parliament.

The government, which has slashed billions from public spending in the name of deficit reduction, plans to cut lawyers' fees to reduce the legal aid budget by 220 million pounds ($360 million) a year through 2019.

Lawyers say the cuts will discourage attorneys from taking criminal cases, in which defendants often rely on state funding for legal representation.

Nigel Lithman, chair of the Criminal Bar Association, said the cuts would mean the British justice system "will cease to exist as we know it."