Legal executives will be allowed to appear in criminal courts for the first time after the Lord Chancellor granted them extended rights of audience.

Some 7,000 fellows of the Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX) will be able to appear in criminal proceedings in the magistrates? and youth courts, and on bail applications in the Crown Court.

Their rights of audience in family and civil proceedings have also been extended to cover all proceedings heard in open court in the county court before a district or circuit judge, including committal proceedings.

The extended rights, which will be introduced by statutory instrument, are expected to come into force by the end of the year.

ILEX fellows will need to pass an additional six-day advocacy course to qualify.

ILEX president John Wells said: ?This development will help firms to continue to provide services to people who are among the most vulnerable in our society'.

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