The Public Defender Service (PDS) has appointed 11 advocates to its ranks following a recruitment drive that started in January.

Michael Wood QC, a sole practitioner who had previously been a door tenant at 23 Essex Street, joins with eight ‘senior advocates’ and two juniors.

Wood told the Gazette: ‘One of the reasons I joined the PDS is that the six firms I was regularly instructed by have either gone bust or stopped doing crime.’

The senior advocates joining are: Gerald Mohabir, Peter Woodall, Martin Sharpe, Robin Howat, Emma Nott, Tom Mitchell, Glenn Carrasco and Andrew Morris, and the junior advocates are Rob Lancaster and Simon Perkins. All are barristers.

The service received 125 applications for posts offering salaries between £46,036 and £125,000, and is expected to confirm further appointments ‘soon’.

The recruitment exercise, which started in January, coincided with a refusal by senior criminal barristers to undertake the most serious cases, following a 30% fee cut introduced in December. 

At the time, the PDS denied the action was a response to the bar’s action, insisting the service, which has been in place for 10 years, has ‘consistently evolved’.

The PDS is a department of the Legal Aid Agency and operates out of four offices, in Darlington, Cheltenham, Pontypridd and Swansea. It employs a small team of police station representatives, duty solicitors and solicitor advocates and has recently employed three silks – Greg Bull QC, the former leader of the Wales and Chester circuit, Alun Jenkins QC and David Aubrey QC who joined last month as head of advocacy.

Seven trials have been affected by the bar’s boycott of very high costs cases, leaving defendants without advocates. Solicitors have, in some instances, been advised to source advocates from the PDS.