In the Media

CPS slows recruitment of in-house Crown advocates

PUBLISHED May 11, 2010

LG reports on a slow down in the recruitment of Crown Advocates

Figures obtained by the Gazette have revealed a steep decline in the Crown Prosecution Service?s recruitment of in-house Crown advocates as an alternative to self-employed barristers.

CPS figures show that the number of Crown advocates in the CPS increased by only nine in 2009/10, to 1,086.

The CPS launched a controversial strategy of building up its own in-house advocacy capability in 2004. Last year the bar raised concerns over the quality of the CPS?s advocacy and cast doubt on the efficiency savings which the prosecutor claimed it would achieve, accusing it of ?Alice in Wonderland accounting?.

CPS annual reports show that, since 2004, the number of Crown advocates grew significantly year on year until recently. In the 12 months to 31 March 2009, the number rose by 132 to 1,077. In the year to 31 March 2008 there was an increase of 107 to 945.

But the latest figures show that, at 31 March 2010, there were 1,086 Crown advocates ? only nine more than 12 months earlier.

Paul Mendelle QC, chair of the Criminal Bar Association, said: ?We welcome a levelling-off in the number of Crown advocates. It represents a step in the right direction. Our view is that we want to see the self-employed bar prosecute, because it is the most cost-effective way of doing it.?

Speaking to the Gazette at the start of the year, Bar Council chair Nick Green QC said that he wanted to ?do a deal with the CPS? on prosecution work. He said the bar has embarked on a series of confidential discussions on this issue with the director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC.

The bar is understood to be seeking a quota to limit the amount of in-house advocacy carried out by the CPS, to ensure work for the self-employed bar is maintained.

A CPS spokesman said the organisation remains ?entirely committed? to its advocacy strategy and ?continues to conduct a significant and increasing amount of its higher court advocacy in-house?.

Jo Cooper, president of the Solicitors Association of Higher Court Advocates, said: ?We?re at a crossroads for advocacy, and the way forward is to look at quality not quotas.

?The bar sees this issue in terms of numbers; we see it in terms of quality, and believe the answer is better training, better advocate selection and better back-office support by the CPS,? he added.