Inquiry condemns CPS as racist

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The Independent Online

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is a racist institution, a damning report into the organisation will tell ministers and the Director of Public Prosecutions next week.

Its findings, based on investigations into a series of successful race claims brought by lawyers employed by the CPS, is expected to trigger a full inquiry by the Commission for Racial Equality.

The report will also undermine the CPS's integrity, because the organisation is responsible for bringing all race crime prosecutions in England and Wales. Institutional racism at the CPS was first alleged in a preliminary report by a senior academic lawyer, Sylvia Denman, published last May. In her final assessment, Ms Denman, who is also chairwoman of Camden and Islington health authority, concludes that the CPS has not learnt from mistakes.

Since she was first appointed by the CPS to conduct her inquiry, the situation has worsened. The commission has launched a separate investigation into specific allegations of racism in the Croydon area office, and its own report is expected in the next two months.

Ms Denman has also looked at fresh allegations, brought since her first report was published, in which an Asian senior crown prosecutor made claims of racism in the West Midlands CPS. These had been taken particularly seriously by the inquiry team because the complainant was a member of Ms Denman's own advisory committee.

The case includes allegations of racial harassment and malicious telephone calls made to him by CPS staff.

In one instance he claims a colleague called him a "black bastard", and on other occasions he says he was sent offensive letters, purporting to have come from his local police station but which have since been traced to staff in his own office.

Last month, the CPS lost its battle to have the case dismissed when an employment tribunal ruled that the allegations should go to a full hearing next year. The man's union, the First Division Association, which is supporting his case, said that it will "press the CPS to actively eliminate all forms of discrimination".

The Denman report will acknowledge that some progress has been made in the treatment of ethnic minority staff. The establishment of the CPS equality committee and diversity unit is expected to be praised, as well as the commitment to staff training on racial issues.

Last night, a spokesman for the commission said it expected to be given the report soon after senior CPS management had had time to digest its content. If the commission decides that both the Denman report and its own Croydon investigation show the CPS is losing its battle against racism then it is expected to complete its formal investigation into the CPS. It has only ever run two similar investigations, one into the Army and a continuing investigation into the Prison Service.

In her report last year Ms Denman said that "lack of confidence in internal procedures, fear of victimisation and a record of delay appear to have contributed to race-related grievance not having been resolved internally". Evidence taken by the Denman inquiry showed that many managers within the service had played down the possibility of race discrimination at the CPS.

The CPS said the Director of Public Prosecutions, David Calvert-Smith QC, had not yet received the report and so could not comment.

In response to Ms Denman's preliminary report last year, Mr Calvert-Smith said: "I have said many times that I will not tolerate racism, which is why diversity is a key aim in our business plans this year."