University: Leeds Beckett University
Year of qualification: 2014
Position: District crown prosecutor
Department: Magistrates’ Court Unit
I always wanted a career that was rewarding, varied and most importantly challenging. Law ticked all three boxes.
The client contact and team working aspects of the job drove me down the solicitor route.
I was the first recipient of the CPS Anthony Walker Law Scholarship, which I received while I was studying for the LPC at the College of Law in Chester. The scholarship was well tailored to the practical development of an aspiring solicitor, being supportive but also challenging. I had the opportunity to undertake an extended period of work experience and received training which focused on advocacy, developing my legal reasoning skills and improving my legal knowledge. It was a fantastic experience and gave me a great insight into the CPS. On completing the scholarship, I realised that the CPS was where I wanted to continue my legal training.
In addition to the Anthony Walker Law Scholarship, I undertook a mini-pupillage with a criminal barrister, volunteered at the Citizens Advice Bureau and worked in a conveyancing solicitors’ firm. Gaining work experience is very important as it demonstrates to an employer that you are committed to your own career development. It also provides you with an insight into the profession, gives you the opportunity to see what areas of law interest you most and can ultimately help determine what area you choose to specialise in.
Preparation is crucial. It is important to have a good knowledge of the work that the CPS undertakes and to keep abreast of wider developments in law and policy within the criminal justice system. Having a broad range of experiences (not necessarily in law) is also beneficial to provide practical examples when answering competency-based questions. Finally, understanding the Code for Crown Prosecutors is paramount, as this is the document that governs how we make our decisions.
I was exposed to a variety of work during my training contract. I spent time in the Magistrates Court Unit, the Crown Court Trial Preparations Teams and the Rape and Serious Sexual Offences Unit, in addition to stints in the Homicide Team and the Proceeds of Crime Unit. I also undertook an external six-month secondment at a local authority, where I completed seats in family law and commercial property.
One of the most enjoyable parts of my training was having the opportunity to shadow a case from start to finish. This involved observing the reviewing lawyer conduct the initial pre-charge advice and shadowing hearings in the Magistrates’ and Crown Courts. I also sat on a case management panel with prosecution counsel and the reviewing lawyer. Finally, I attended the Old Bailey to observe the trial, which lasted three days and saw the defendant convicted. This was an invaluable experience as it gave me an in-depth view of how the system operates and the work that needs to be undertaken at each stage of the process.
The training and support available at the CPS stand out. We have a dedicated learning and development team, which is led by a training principal who oversees the training of all of the legal trainees nationally.
Each trainee attends an induction and is allocated their own individual supervisor, who is responsible for the allocation of their work and a line manager who looks after their day-to-day welfare.
In addition to face-to-face training, trainees also have access to the Prosecution College, which is an online portal containing training material, tutorials and interactive case studies. Trainees can use the platform to develop their knowledge of the law and the practical application of policies and procedures.
There are many development opportunities available at the CPS. When I was a trainee, I had the opportunity to conduct advocacy in the Magistrates’ Court, which I found extremely beneficial. I qualified through the CILEx route as an associate prosecutor, which was excellent preparation for my time in court once I became a fully-fledged crown prosecutor.
I wish that I had appreciated that as a trainee you are not expected to know all of the answers. It is important that trainees remember that this stage of their learning is about creating a strong foundation on which a career can be built. No one is the finished article when they qualify.
I am one of six district crown prosecutors in the West Midlands Magistrates’ Court Unit, which contains approximately 90 lawyers and 60 operational delivery staff. We are the largest Magistrates’ Court team in the country.
Every day is varied. I directly line manage 15 lawyers, alongside co-managing both the casework and advocacy functions of the team. This involves overseeing the legal decision making of our lawyers and providing instructions to external advocates, who we instruct to prosecute our trials. My role also involves liaising with key stakeholders such as the court service and the police, in addition to considering cases where victims have exercised their right to review.
In addition, I am the designated football prosecutor for our area. I work closely with British Transport Police and the Football Policing Unit on initiatives to help reduce football-related offending, which can occur at stadiums and train stations across the country. I am also the thematic hate crime lead for our unit. As well as taking the legal lead, it is a role that involves having open and honest dialogue with different community groups about our casework. This is important, as it helps us as an organisation understand how we are responding to the challenges of hate crime both locally and as a service.
I really enjoy the fact that I have a career where every day is different and where I am always learning something new. Serving the wider community and developing members of my team are both extremely rewarding parts of the job.
The work-life balance is good. In my office, we have a very supportive and inclusive atmosphere and we hold lots of staff events. Recently, we had a Macmillan cake sale event to raise money for charity. We also held a buffet lunch for World Food Day, where members of the team brought in different dishes from around the globe. We always try to have at least one event every month.
I’d say the Anthony Walker Law Scholarship.
I think that having good people skills is absolutely paramount and an attribute which is very often underestimated. As prosecutors, we are public facing and sit at the heart of the criminal justice system. Our role involves interacting with different people on a daily basis. This ranges from court staff and judges to victims and witnesses, from defence solicitors to police. Building and fostering strong relationships is vital to ensure that the system runs smoothly and that justice is served.
Being able to work at pace is also valuable, alongside demonstrating strong case analysis skills and being able to interpret and apply legislation and policy. The latter is a critically important skill for a prosecutor, as our job involves making important decisions on a daily basis which affect people’s lives.
Can I choose two? The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill by the eponymous Lauryn Hill and Graduation by Kanye West.