New ‘briefing principles’ will ensure that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) delivers equality of opportunity among the advocates it instructs, the Director of Public Prosecutors has pledged.
Max Hill QC said chambers would also have to meet diversity and equality standards expectations if they wanted to receive prosecution work.
Last month, Mr Hill launched the CPS’s 2025 advocacy strategy, which committed to maintaining “a mixed economy” of employed and private practice advocates.
It also promised to give issues such as diversity greater prominence and to publish a new CPS diversity and inclusion statement for the Bar.
Recently published research showed that only 16 of the 100 barrister paid the most by the CPS were women, and 19% of the best-paid 500.
A CPS/Bar Council steering group found that, in 2019-20, female junior advocates accounted for 35% of all advocates paid by the CPS but received 26% of the total fees paid in value, while female advocates were proportionately less likely to feature in multi-defendant cases, high-value frauds or as leading juniors.
Speaking to a meeting of the Bar Council on Saturday, Mr Hill said: “Good progress has already been made with Bar colleagues on work to improve the diversity of our advocate panel, and offer greater opportunities for progression, particularly for advocates from under-represented groups.
“Another key development will be our new briefing principles, which will set out the factors relevant to determining the right advocate for the right case.
“In addition to well-established considerations, such as ensuring high standards of advocacy, the principles recognise the importance of equality of opportunity, and the role the CPS plays in supporting the progression and development of advocates.”
The diversity and inclusion statement will be published in the coming months and will set out the CPS’s requirements and expectations on equality, diversity and inclusion.
They would, said Mr Hill, “apply to all prosecuting advocates and sets of chambers whose members prosecute, or seek to prosecute on behalf of the CPS”.
He added: “In all of this work, progress can only be made if we continue to engage openly, honestly and at all levels. That means being clear about our values and the high standards we expect of those who prosecute – praising quality but also holding people to account where performance is not good enough.”
There has been a growing focus on briefing practices as one way to address equality issues at the Bar. Last year, the Bar Council suggested that giving female barristers preferential access to briefs after returning to chambers from career breaks could help bring about real change.
We reported in January that last year’s Bar Council chair, Amanda Pinto, welcomed the CPS’s approach but said female fraud barristers were “a long way from parity” with their male colleagues.