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CPS lifts ban on sole practitioner work

17 May 2006

Sole practitioners will again be able to conduct work on behalf of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) after HM Revenue & Customs determined that self-employed solicitors wouldn't be classed as 'employees' of the Government for tax purposes.

The CPS told Solicitors Journal it had written to the chief crown prosecutors in all areas of England and Wales informing them that the temporary prohibition on using sole practitioners, which has run since January this year, has now been lifted and they are free to "contact and use them as and when the need arises".

"This follows lengthy discussions with the HM Revenue and Customs about their [sole practitioners] employment status," said a CPS spokeswoman. "HMRC has now reached a final determination that sole practitioner lawyers are not CPS employees and the CPS is not required to operate PAYE and NIC liability for those agents, which was the reason for the temporary prohibition."

The decision came as a great relief to the Law Society, who instigated a judicial review against the CPS over the action, which they said "effectively meant that hundreds of our members were left high and dry".

Following numerous unproductive discussions, the Law Society's solicitors wrote to the CPS, with a copy sent to the HMRC, issuing proceedings against them on 13 April.

"The CPS realised the strength of opposition across the profession to its decision," said Law Society president Kevin Martin. "In light of our legal action, we are pleased that the CPS and HMRC moved quickly to resolve this matter."

Richard Miller, Director of the Legal Aid Practitioners Group (LAPG), said: “LAPG congratulates the Law Society on achieving a fine result for the profession. The original decision caused great concern, and we are delighted it has been reversed."

However, despite the pats on the back of the Law Society, the CPS insisted: "it was not the case that we reversed the action due to the legal action undertaken by the Law Society."

The Law Society in turn said it was "aware of this denial but we stick by our position".

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