DPP to spend a day in court as magistrate

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The Independent Online
THE DIRECTOR of Public Prosecutions intends to swap his position as head of the country's crown lawyers for a day at a magistrates' court, dealing with drunks and shoplifters.

David Calvert-Smith will become the first head of the Crown Prosecution Service and the first DPP in modern times to present cases in court.

Speaking at the launch of the service's annual report yesterday, he said: "I'm particularly anxious to get a feel for myself of what it's like to pick up a bundle of files, go along to a magistrates' court and have to deal with 50 cases in a morning, with minimal time to collect one's thoughts in between.

"I want to show my lawyers I'm prepared to do a list in the magistrates' court so they should not think themselves too grand to do the same."

He acknowledged that many of the cases he would deal with would be alleged "drunks and shoplifters. I so enjoy appearing in court, I actually miss it," he said.

Unfortunately, journalists will not be able to observe Mr Calvert-Smith's court technique, because he intends to keep his appearance a secret. "It wouldn't be fair on the defendants," he explained.

He said he wanted hands-on experience of the problems and pressures faced by the 2,100 lawyers serving in the CPS since a revolution in the structure of the body responsible for prosecuting those accused of crimes.

It is years since the DPP, a post dating back to the 19th century, played an active prosecuting role and neither of Mr Calvert-Smith's predecessors at the CPS, Dame Barbara Mills or Sir Allan Green, appeared in court. Before taking up his post as DPP in November, Mr Calvert-Smith, a QC, made regularly appearances in court as a barrister.

The CPS underwent a radical overhaul earlier this year in response to the damning Glidewell report, which advocated greater separation between the work of managers and lawyers.

Figures in the annual report revealed a drop of almost 2 per cent in the proportion of Crown Court cases leading to a conviction. Mr Calvert- Smith said the shift, from 90.6 per cent to 89.1 per cent, bucked a long- term trend towards more convictions. Overall the CPS dealt with 1,423,200 cases in magistrates' courts and 124,781 in the Crown Court. Some 98 per cent of magistrates' court cases ended with a conviction.

A total of 30 staff out of an organisation of 6,000 had been dismissed for incompetence in the past year, while emphasis on re-education and retraining was being stepped up.