The Ministry of Justice is on the recruitment hunt to bring the Public Defender Service back to full strength. Salaries for eight higher courts advocate vacancies in the Legal Aid Agency department range from £49,309 to £79,956.

The PDS was set up in 2001 to provide criminal defence representation in the police station, Crown and higher courts. A specialist advocacy team was set up in 2014. The team normally consists of 25 solicitors and barristers. However, a spokesperson for the agency confirmed that the vacancies have arisen due to staff departing, such as to join the judiciary. 'We are therefore carrying out a recruitment round to fill existing vacancies as part of our normal operations,' the spokesperson added.

The PDS has offices in Cheltenham, Darlington, Pontypridd and Swansea. However, the job advert, which appears on the government and Gazette's websites, also lists Birmingham and Manchester.

The advert states that the PDS 'operates alongside private providers delivering a full range of high-quality services within the criminal defence market'. Successful applicants will provide advice, assistance and representation to people subject to investigation or prosecution, 'with particular emphasis on advocacy relating to serious, complicated and sensitive criminal casework in the Crown Court and the superior courts'. They will also prepare and manage case plans, act as sole advocate or be led as junior counsel, and mentor 'less experienced' colleagues.

'As a result of the experience gained from its participation in these areas, the PDS contributes credible and expert advice to the government on service and policy development affecting the criminal justice system and acts as a test-bed for innovation and quality improvements,' the advert says.

Successful applicants will be expected to commit 'to the goal of PDS to become an exemplar of best practice in criminal advocacy' and be prepared to travel to cover cases across England and Wales.

According to the advert, the civil service 'embraces diversity'. Of the 17 advocates currently listed on the advocates section of the PDS website, one is a woman.