CPS: Quarter of pupil barristers quit after a year

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By Rhys Duncan on


Potential for ‘better advocacy opportunities’ elsewhere, report finds

A quarter of pupil barristers who joined the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) between 2016 and 2022 left within 12 months of qualifying, it has emerged.

A report by the Criminal Justice Joint Inspection (CJJI), which includes members of the four criminal justice inspectorates of the CPS, the constabulary, prisons, and probation, has found that 45 of the 180 pupil barristers who joined the CPS didn’t stay for more than a year after qualification.

This exodus, the report suggests, “may result from better advocacy opportunities at the independent bar”.

The report also raises concerns that there are “limited opportunities for new starters to learn from seasoned colleagues”, with many practitioners leaving the criminal field and those that remain “already dealing with increased pressures or workloads still remaining from the pandemic”.

It goes on to say that “issues remain with levels of experience and the inherent risks of inexperienced staff assisting and mentoring other inexperienced staff, as well as the further projected loss of a significant cadre of experienced prosecutors through retirement, given the age profile of the senior crown prosecutor cadre”.

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It’s not just new barristers that the CPS is struggling to retain, however. Of all the external new starters who joined the CPS between January 2022 and April 2023, 139 left in less than a year. The report also states that roughly 10% of new legal staff left within 12 months.

Whilst the CPS has increased its full time equivalent legal posts by 3% in 2022-23, the service is only able to fund 5,325 positions, 92% of the 5,701 required under its resourcing model.

Elsewhere, the service has sought to boost its recruitment in the apprenticeship field, currently employing 57 solicitor apprentices. The first of these recruits are set to qualify this year.



Joining the CPS as a pupil is almost always a route to qualification and no more. It’s much easier to obtain tenancy than it is pupillage for most, and so this is to be expected.

I’m not sure the CPS should have any barristers – use the independent Bar.


Stay in the CPS kids, you ain’t making any money at the criminal bar. Build up the pension, take advantage of the benefits/health care plan. Plenty of people take silk and become judges directly from the CPS these days.


You’re obviously in the wrong Chambers.

There is plenty to be made nowadays due to the backlog.


The CPS is a great place learn and develop your knowledge of criminal law and procedure, however, you are unlikely to make meaningful development as an advocate. Even experienced staff struggle to get good advocacy experience with most things being briefed out to chambers. It is a real shame because the CPS should really be an advocacy powerhouse. I am not the first to make these observations and as such I sadly suspect that the revolving door will continue.

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