Skip to main content

Accessibility controls

Main content area

CPS Briefing Principles




1. This document sets out the principles the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) will follow when selecting an advocate to prosecute a case. They apply equally to in-house and external prosecution advocates and relate to all advocacy undertaken by the CPS.

2. The overriding objective is to ensure that the Right Advocate for the Right Case is instructed to prosecute in every case. No two cases are the same and what constitutes the right advocate in any given case will therefore differ.

The Principles

3. In determining who the right advocate is, a range of factors need to be taken into account, as follows.

  • The CPS will deliver good quality, effective advocacy
  • It will provide flexible, resilient and sustainable advocacy services
  • Equality of opportunity between different groups will be advanced 
  • Value for money will be demonstrated
  • Progression and development will be encouraged, particularly for underrepresented groups. 

Good quality, effective advocacy

4. All in-house and external advocates must deliver high quality advocacy and act and behave in accordance with published CPS values.

5. All court sessions, new instructions, and returns, for advocacy should be briefed to quality assured advocates falling within one of the following categories:

  • In-house Crown Advocates
  • CPS Advocate Panel members
  • Treasury Counsel
  • King’s Counsel.

6. Instructed advocates are expected to meet the benchmarks of quality set out in the CPS Casework Quality Standards in respect of preparation, review and presentation.

7. Effective advocates put the prosecution case clearly, concisely and persuasively; speak up for the interests of victims and witnesses; act in the best interests of the CPS; assist the court; probe and challenge the defence case, and achieve timely and just outcomes. They also proactively make sure the case is progressed throughout and at each hearing, taking appropriate decisions as required and explaining those decisions as necessary.

Flexible, resilient and sustainable

8. Combining a mix of in-house and external advocacy provides flexibility, resilience and sustainability. It provides CPS with choice to select the best advocate for the role.

9. In-house advocates provide a long-term, sustainable and resilient cadre of advocates committed to high quality prosecution advocacy and public service. Advocacy is an essential part of the prosecution function and the knowledge and experience it brings informs decision making and case preparation. It also allows Crown Prosecutors to maintain close links to victims and witnesses, thereby increasing public confidence.

10. External advocates provide CPS with a substantial resource of high quality advocacy, particularly trial advocacy. The CPS Advocate Panel arrangements provide a time limited list of quality assured advocates to undertake criminal prosecution advocacy for CPS across all court venues. The Panel also provides a framework for external advocates to develop and progress.

Equality of opportunity

11. Having a skilled, experienced and diverse cadre of advocates is essential to delivering our core role: fair and independent prosecutions. Advancing equality of opportunity, in accordance with Section 149 of the Public Sector Equality Duty, is critical to achieving this.

12. It recognises that, in securing their role or level, all prosecuting advocates must demonstrate they have the requisite skill and experience. Although selecting the ‘right advocate for the right case’ is the primary objective, in the majority of cases, there is unlikely to be a single individual who will meet the case’s requirements and a choice will therefore need to be made.

13. An equitable approach to briefing should be taken with the distribution of work actively monitored. Care should be taken to ensure that advocates who meet the quality standard are fairly considered and that opportunities are offered equally to all those who meet the ‘right advocate for the right case’ criteria whether in-house or external. Where an advocate’s performance is adversely impacting their prospects of instruction, feedback and advice should be offered.

14. Equality of opportunity also recognises that, in order to progress, advocates must provide demonstrable evidence of improvement and an assurance that they meet the requirements to conduct advocacy at a higher level. Such evidence is likely to be drawn from more challenging cases. Accordingly, opportunities to undertake more complex work or be instructed in a two-counsel case, for example, are important; not just for the individual advocate, but in the wider context of supporting the provision of sustainable, diverse and quality advocacy services, and ensuring that those who prosecute reflect the communities we serve.

Value for money

15. Value for money in the provision of advocacy services will always be a relevant consideration because of the need to secure best value from public funds.  Value must be considered in its widest sense, however, and should not be viewed purely in terms of cost. 

16. Quality advocacy should be delivered by the most effective, efficient and economic means for each case and should be kept under review.

Progression and development

17. Supporting the development of all advocates at all levels is an essential element of a vibrant workforce and delivering effective and sustainable advocacy. This applies equally to in-house and external advocates and is particularly important in respect of advocates from groups who are currently underrepresented.

18. An advocate’s commitment and readiness to progress will therefore be a relevant factor - together with their current level of skill and experience - in selecting the right advocate for the case. Understanding an advocate’s level of ambition or area of interest will be dependent on effective communication between the advocate and/or chambers and those instructing them.

Compliance and monitoring

19. The implementation of a CPS Briefing Tracker will support those responsible for the instruction of advocates and application of these principles. Linked to CPS Advocate Panel data, it will allow analysis to be conducted at national, Circuit and Area level in respect of the distribution of work, proportionality of case allocation and the diversity of those we instruct to prosecute - both in-house and external.

20. Support and guidance on the application of these principles will be provided both locally and by the Court Business Unit within HQ Operations.


21. The Circuit Advocate Liaison and Committees (CALCs) provide oversight in respect of the selection, conduct and performance of advocates instructed on behalf of the Crown Prosecution Service across each Circuit. The CALCs are also responsible for promoting and monitoring equality, diversity and inclusivity. Compliance with the Briefing Principles will be regularly reviewed by the CALCs and any issues will be addressed accordingly. CALC discussions will also feed into wider work being undertaken at a national level.

Scroll to top