CPS lawyers in higher courts next year

CPS lawyers are likely to be prosecuting in Crown Courts by February.

Dame Barbara Mills QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, has asked the service's chief crown prosecutors to identify suitable volunteers from within their areas for the course, which all solicitors must take and pass before they can appear in the higher courts.

It is hoped 50 CPS lawyers will take the written test in September and then be entered on the Law Society's tough training course at the end of the year.

The move follows the limited granting of higher court rights of audience to employed solicitors, announced in February by Lord Mackay of Clashfern, the then Lord Chancellor.

A CPS spokeswoman said the CPS planned to secure Crown Court rights of audience for around only 50 of its 1,500 solicitors a year.

“The criteria for selecting a candidate will be a minimum of three years' post-qualification experience… and performance significantly above that required as an advocate in the magistrates' courts.” she said.

Once they have qualified for higher court audience rights, the prosecutors will be allowed cover appeals against sentence, cases committed for sentence and guilty pleas.

The Bar Council was opposed to any extension of the rights of audience of CPS lawyers, and it was believed even the limited extension may have a significant effect on the junior Bar.