In November 2020 I wrote a blog about the importance of diversity and inclusion in the criminal justice system, outlining the work the CPS is doing with Bar colleagues to drive progress. 

I am delighted to say that yesterday saw the publication of two pivotal documents which will underpin this continuing work – making sure that we not only do we have a talented, adaptable and diverse cadre of advocates, but that they better reflect the communities we serve. 

The first of these are the new CPS Briefing Principles. They apply to all advocacy undertaken by the CPS, setting out the factors we will consider when determining the right advocate for the right case. 

In addition to reaffirming well-established principles such as the need to secure high-quality advocacy services, they also put the progression of advocates and advancing equality of opportunity at the heart of our decision-making. We recognise the role we have to play in supporting advocates of all backgrounds to develop their skills and experience – including making sure that they have fair access to prosecution work.    

The second document is the CPS Diversity and Inclusion Statement for the Bar, which sets out what we require and expect of Bar and chambers colleagues in respect of equality, diversity and inclusion. The Statement focuses on five important areas:      

  • Ongoing engagement regarding performance, progression and development       
  • Supporting greater diversity across the CPS Advocate Panel at all levels   
  • Equitable access to work within Chambers           
  • Self-declaration of protected characteristics        
  • Compliance and monitoring        

The Statement replaces the 2012 version and isn’t just intended to clarify the CPS position, but to also give all those with a vested interest – barristers and those working in chambers – a clear understanding of the role they, and their colleagues, are expected to play in respect of CPS casework. 

For advocates, the Statement sets out what they can expect from their clerks in terms of the equitable allocation of CPS work. For chambers clerks, it opens the door to effective and ongoing conversations with us about the development and progression of those they clerk. And for heads of chambers and Bar leaders we hope the Statement further supports the truly inspiring work which is already ongoing across all Circuits to make a career at the Bar more accessible and to improve diversity within the profession.   

Accurately understanding the diversity of the CPS Advocate Panel, and how it evolves over time, is a critical part being able to measure our progress. That is why the Statement introduces a new expectation: that members of our Advocate Panel make an annual online declaration in relation to relevant protected characteristics. Panel members who joined or upgraded since last September will already have done this – thank you. For those who haven’t yet registered on the online portal, we will be getting in touch shortly with all the information you need, and to answer any questions.   

The fact that the Briefing Principles and Diversity & Inclusion Statement for the Bar are being published together is no coincidence. We know that we all have a part to play in making sure that diversity and inclusion practice in prosecution work is of a consistently high standard. As your client, it is our responsibility to be clear about our requirements and the standard of service we expect. It is also right that the Public Sector Equality Duty places a general duty on public bodies such as the CPS to promote equality. That said, this is very much the next stage in an ongoing and two-way conversation: these documents provide the framework within which we hope to make tangible progress together.            

Later this month (July) we will be running a series of Teams sessions to provide advice and an opportunity to ask questions for prospective applicants ahead of the September advocate panel application window. Later in the year, we hope to announce a new Treasury Counsel Pathway, aimed at identifying and supporting talented advocates from underrepresented groups who seek to become Treasury Counsel of the future.

Thank you to everyone who has already supported this work – including those whose expertise helped us to shape the documents we are launching today. It is a great privilege to be able to work together in building a more diverse and inclusive criminal justice community.

Rebecca Lawrence, CEO, CPS.