CPS appoints first solicitor to Director of Public Prosecutions role since 1960s

Former Kingsley Napley senior partner Stephen Parkinson has been appointed as the next Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), replacing former head of Red Lion Chambers Max Hill KC in the role.

Parkinson is the first solicitor to hold the position since the 1960s, with all the previous incumbents since then having been barristers. He transferred from the Bar in 2002 when joining Kingsley Napley from the public sector. He was succeeded as senior partner at the firm by James Fulforth in May this year after five years in post.

He brings with him extensive in-house experience in the public sector, including at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which he will now lead as a prosecutor and head of its international co-operation unit.

Parkinson said: “Both as a prosecutor and defender I have always strongly believed in the importance of the CPS in bringing to justice and prosecuting fairly those accused of crime.”

He also served as private secretary to the Attorney General, working alongside the Law Officers and rising to be deputy head of the department. He also worked for the Treasury Solicitor’s Department, now part of the Government Legal Service, in senior civil litigation roles.

His leadership experience, skilled management of complex cases, broad awareness of the CPS, and insights into prosecution and defence were praised by Attorney General Victoria Prentis KC MP, a fellow former government lawyer.

Prentis said: “Stephen has had a stellar legal career both in and outside of government as well as experience of both prosecuting and defending. Combining this with his extensive track record of leadership, I have every confidence he will be a collaborative director and a principled and independent chief prosecutor. The public will rightly expect nothing less.”

Previous incumbents of the post include the current leader of the opposition, Sir Keir Starmer KC MP; Dame Alison Saunders, who is now a partner at City firm Linklaters; and Matrix Chambers’ Lord Macdonald of River Glaven KC.

Law Society president Lubna Shuja said she was delighted with the appointment, adding “it’s great to see one of our members take up this prestigious role”.

“His experience as a solicitor over many years, and previously as a barrister, means he will have a good understanding of the many issues affecting our criminal justice system,” she added.

The chair of the Bar Council, Nick Vineall KC, also welcomed the appointment, noting Parkinson’s work as an in-house barrister for 20 years.

He said: “[Parkinson] has had a distinguished career in both the public and the private sectors. We very much look forward to meeting and engaging with the new DPP on areas of mutual concern, at a time when the criminal justice sector is under unprecedented pressure, and Crown Court backlogs are at record levels,” echoing Shuja’s own concerns about criminal court delays.

Vineall also thanked the outgoing DPP, Max Hill KC, noting Hill had ably steered the CPS through the pandemic, adding “[he] has always sought to ensure that remuneration for those involved in prosecuting on behalf of the CPS was on a par with criminal defence fees”.  

Hill, who is a former chair of the Criminal Bar Association, is expected to be appointed to the High Court after standing down.

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