The Crown Prosecution Service in London is to end its preferred sets system next year.  The service will introduce a system where external advocates will be instructed according to their ability and experience to deal with various cases.

Advocates have until 31 January to apply, using a form posted on the service?s London website (www.cps.gov.uk/London) under External Advocates Application Form.

Under the scheme, which will be introduced on 1 April 2007, only those suitably qualified advocates whose names are on an approved list will work for CPS London.

Initially, applicants will carry out an assessment themselves according to criteria outlined by CPS London.

This will need the endorsement of their head of chambers or senior partner. Sole practitioners will apply for a grade, which will have to be confirmed by a separate panel.

With four levels, grade one is the entry grade for CPS London work while grade four is for advocates of ?exceptional experience and ability?.

Advocates in chambers have to get their heads to agree they have the skills and experience required for the grade they have outlined.

The grade chosen by applicants will be a provisional one which will be confirmed at a later stage by a special panel.

Advocates whose grading is not confirmed can lodge an appeal which will be considered by an appeals panel.

Movement across the grades is allowed under the scheme, which has been endorsed by the Bar and the Law Society.

The list will be updated by CPS London at the end of each financial year.

The preferred sets system was introduced in 1993.

The new scheme was recommended following a review of the selection of external advocates ordered by London?s Chief Crown Prosecutor Dru Sharpling.

She said: ?CPS London spends around ?36 million a year on outside prosecutors.

?This is a huge sum of public money, and as such we have to ensure we spend it prudently.

?Whenever we instruct advocates we must choose the right one, with the appropriate skills and experience for that particular case.

?We believe the new system is fairer, selecting advocates according to ability and experience and the CPS Bar Equality and Diversity Expectation Statement.

?The grading initiative gives everyone an equal opportunity to do CPS London work.
The system will take full account of the service?s equality and diversity obligations.

?It will also ensure that the external advocates we use are representative of London?s black and minority ethnic communities.?

She added: ?We will monitor the scheme to ensure we achieve the highest performance levels.?

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