Saunders, who was selected in an open competition, is the second female DPP and the first to be appointed from within the ranks of the service, rather than from the self-employed Bar.

Incumbent, Kier Starmer QC, endorsed her as an “outstanding leader” who would “make a first rate DPP”, when she takes over the role on 1 November, at the end of Starmer’s five-year term.

During her time with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), Saunders has been involved in a number of high-profile cases, including the Stephen Lawrence re-trial and the conviction of Roy Whiting for the murder of Sarah Payne. In 2011, she was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath for her role in the prosecutions of the London rioters.

After a pupillage at 1 Garden Court and a stint at Lloyd’s of London, Saunders joined the CPS at its inception in 1986. She moved to the CPS Policy Directorate in 1991, where she specialised in issues involving child victims and witnesses.

Appointed Branch Crown Prosecutor for Wood Green in 1997, she was promoted to Assistant Chief Crown Prosecutor of CPS London South in 1999. She became Chief Crown Prosecutor for Sussex in 2001, then left the CPS in 2003 to become Deputy Legal Advisor to the Attorney General. She rejoined the CPS two years later as Head of the Organised Crime Division and was appointed Chief Crown Prosecutor for London in 2010, in charge of 1,200 staff prosecuting 160,000 cases each year.

Chairman of the Bar, Maura McGowan QC, said that in a time of austerity, Saunders would face difficult challenges and decisions, but expressed “every confidence that she will maintain the CPS’ strong links with the independent Bar”. She praised Starmer for doing a “fantastic job in trying times”.

Saunders said she looked forward to “carrying on with the fantastic work that Keir Starmer QC has undertaken, ensuring the CPS further improves and continuing with reforms, both within the CPS and more widely in the criminal justice system”. She herself has taken a lead on the public perception and prosecution of rape and serious sexual offences.