Midland barristers have been forbidden from meeting at Birmingham Crown Court to discuss possible strike action.

The courts director for the West Midlands stopped a get-together of 160 members of the Bar last week because she believed the subject up for debate was "not in the court's best interest".

The barristers had planned to discuss whether to boycott new criminal work for two weeks next month in protest at the Government's intention to cut their hourly rates. They were forced to hold the meeting two days later in Birmingham's Thistle Hotel.

Tim Green, Midland Circuit Junior and a Birmingham barrister, said: "This is like doctors being shut out of hospitals.

"Telling us we can't meet in the building we work in to discuss our approach has just inflamed the whole situation."

Lin Hinnigan, director of the courts service for the West Midlands, said: "We normally let the Bar hold its meetings in our buildings, but on this occasion it was drawn to our notice that this was to discuss potential disruptive action.

"I don't feel it is appropriate to use our premises to do this when the discussion is not in the court's best interest and could lead to disrupting the courts."