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The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is set to slash spending by £34m through a radical transformation in which it will cease to use external advocates.
Under a cost-saving strategy led by director of public prosecutions Ken MacDonald QC, the CPS is introducing in-house advocates for all of the courts it works in.
The service currently spends £81m annually on advocates prosecuting cases lasting between one and 10 days.
A CPS spokesperson told The Lawyer: "The CPS now aims to increase the deployment of its in-house advocates and to transform the CPS into a service which routinely conducts its own high-quality advocacy in all courts. This is a long-term, incremental process and will help achieve a seamless 'cradle to grave' approach to case handling in the CPS, from the pre-charge advice stage through to final disposal of the case."
The CPS denied that cost saving was the main aim of the scheme, instead saying that it was designed to strengthen case management.
The plan extends an in-house advocacy training scheme first introduced in 1998 and is part of an overall efficiency strategy designed to cut costs by £34m by March 2008.
A four-strong team of advocates is already in place in Bristol Crown Court and recruitment is underway for a similar team for Snaresbrook Crown Court in northeast London.
The move has split the bar. One senior clerk said: "Criminal barristers have got to realise the bar's changing. For people that want security and want a regular income, this is actually a brilliant thing."
But another clerk warned: "I do think the standard of advocates will be unfortunately inferior and it's the public at large that will suffer."