'Everybody deserves a second chance' says new DPP over his drugs conviction

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The Independent Online

The director of Public Prosecutions, whose appointment last year was overshadowed by the revelation that he had a 34-year-old drugs conviction, said yesterday that everyone deserved the chance to redeem themselves.

In his first press conference since starting his job, Ken Macdonald QC said that what he had done was "foolish" and "embarrassing" but it was now time to move on.

Mr Macdonald was fined £75 in 1971 for sending 0.1g of cannabis through the post. MPs and sections of the media have called into question his ability to fairly prosecute similar cases.

But yesterday Mr Macdonald, who helped Cherie Booth QC establish the country's foremost human rights chambers, put the record straight.

"If you ask most people whether what I did should mean that I shouldn't be appointed Director of Public Prosecutions 34 years later, I think most people would say it shouldn't have been a factor. People have to be given a chance to redeem themselves. It was a foolish thing to do, it was very embarrassing, I wish it hadn't happened. But if you are asking me whether I can't do my job as DPP I don't think so and I think one should move on really."

He added: "I take a view on those offences which is a straightforward prosecutor's view that parliament makes the law and we apply that law to our work. If you are asking me whether my view of these issues is affected by experience 34 years ago my answer is 'no'."

Mr Macdonald, formerly a pupil to Baroness (Helena) Kennedy and a leading human rights barrister, saidalthough the CPS would pursue its cases in a robust manor that did not mean "going hell for leather" to get a conviction.