Rights of audience go-ahead imminent

Long-awaited government plans giving full rights of audience in higher courts to barristers and solicitors employed by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), commerce and industry will be revealed in two weeks.

The radical proposals are also expected to simplify the requirements for all solicitors who want to qualify as higher court advocates.

CPS solicitors were given limited rights of audience last year, and last month the Bar Council sent a recommendation to the Lord Chancellor that CPS and other employed barristers be granted similar status.

But the government has indicated its willingness to scrap the Bar's near monopoly on higher court rights and the Glidewell report concluded that CPS lawyers should be given full rights of advocacy.

A spokesman for the Law Society said it was “extremely good news” and that the society had been told to expect a document which it would be “reasonably happy with”.

A Bar Council spokesman said: “We have always welcomed competition and have no objection to any practitioner acting as an advocate in the crown court. However they must be suitably qualified and be able to demonstrate independence.”

The court of appeal has ruled that solicitor-advocates who give clients pre-trial advice can represent the clients in court. It overturned a first instance ruling that David Price, a solicitor-advocate with David Price & Co, could not act for Spiked magazine in defending a libel action brought by athlete Linford Christie. Although Price had earlier advised the magazine, he had not “decided a course of action”.