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Bar fury over leaked CPS email

CPS 'deliberately acting against public interest'

25 February 2013

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The Bar Council has reacted furiously after The Times published extracts from a leaked email this morning, which suggests that the CPS is deliberately sending complex and low earning cases to external barristers, while keeping the easier, more remunerative work for itself.

In response, the Bar Council has published the email, with the names of individuals deleted. It is understood by The Times to be from a “senior member of staff”. According to the DPP, it relates to only to five London Crown Courts.

The author encourages members of staff to adopt a ‘tick and star’ system to give CPS clerks “a helping hand when they are faced with mountains of briefs”.

He says “the way we worked this system” at Isleworth and Harrow Crown Courts was to tick cases “we didn’t want to do” and send them to external barristers.

Examples given are “messy, troublesome cases with lots of complications” and the “low earners” such as burglary.

The author says cases that the CPS “wanted to do”, such as “high earners” like robbery with a weapon or indecent images should be marked with a star.

He says that cases anticipated as ending in cracked trials, because of weak evidence or unreliable witnesses, should also be kept in-house.

The author adds: “Obviously we are keen for advocates to progress and develop their skills and we would encourage everyone to be proactive in seeking out the trials that they want to do in order to develop themselves.”

Maura McGowan QC, chairman of the Bar Council, said: “Today, we are able to show, with incontrovertible evidence that the CPS is deliberately acting against the public interest and the best people are not being used to prosecute serious crimes.”

McGowan said the DPP had offered his apologies and promised a full investigation.

“We await that investigation to see whether the stated method of instruction in the attached email is indeed limited to the five North London Courts or if the notion of dividing work with cynical disregard for standards is more prevalent than we have been led to believe.

“Whilst, of course, we accept the Director’s word that it does not represent policy, it exposes a culture that has grown up within the CPS that is driven by cost, and cost alone.

“The instructions contained in the email an utter disregard for ensuring that cases are prosecuted by those with sufficient experience and skill to do so.

The DPP, Keir Starmer (pictured), said the email “should not have been sent” and did not reflect CPS policy.

“The circulation of the e-mail was small (about 43 recipients in an organisation of over 6,000 staff), it only covered advocates dealing with cases in North London Crown Courts and its existence was short-lived (it was dated 15th January 2013 and was withdrawn on 19th February 2013),” he said.

“I have had assurances from all chief crown prosecutors across England and Wales that no such or similar scheme has been operated elsewhere in the CPS.”

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