The Ministry of Justice has come under fire for attempting to recruit advocates to the Public Defender Service as criminal barristers boycott the most serious cases in protest at fee cuts.

Last week it advertised vacancies for a ‘small number’ of advocates to work at the service, offering salaries between £46,036 and £125,000 plus ‘generous allowances’.

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Carlile called for a review of the PDS to assess whether it is a ‘total waste of public money’.

The Law Society’s chief executive, Desmond Hudson (pictured), suggested the ministry was trying to find a way to break the dispute with advocates.

He said: ‘Bringing criminal defence services in-house isn’t sustainable or desirable. Evidence shows that solicitors in private practice offer substantially better value for money than solicitor services delivered through the PDS.’

A spokeswoman for the PDS denied any intention to compete with the independent criminal bar, saying the service will continue to deal with only a small number of cases.

But she said: ‘The PDS has reviewed the way its services are delivered and determined that it needs QCs to develop its service.’