The provisions, launched last November, place a personal obligation on self-employed barristers to take all reasonable steps to ensure compliance with the rules. Any breach of the equality and diversity provisions would therefore be a breach of the Code of Conduct.

Addressing a Bar Standards Board conference on the rules last month, Starmer said: “This will ensure that no barrister is prevented from achieving his or her potential at the Bar by unfair recruitment practices or unnecessary barriers to progress. “At all levels, the diversity of our workforce has increased — in particular in terms of ethnicity and gender.”

Starmer commented that, as of March 2010, 40 per cent of Chief Crown Prosecutors were women, compared to 18 per cent in 2003; 12.8 per cent of these posts were held by BME staff for the same period, compared to 5.3 per cent in 2003. In the same period, 6.4 per cent of the workforce was disabled, compared to 4.4 per cent in 2003. “Our Stonewall index ranking has increased each year and last year we moved up 15 places into the top 50 for 2010,” he added.