Inquiry is launched into racism at CPS

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The Independent Online

An independent investigation into allegations of racism in the Crown Prosecution Service is to be set up to head off a formal inquiry by the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE).

An independent investigation into allegations of racism in the Crown Prosecution Service is to be set up to head off a formal inquiry by the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE).

The move follows two racial discrimination cases brought against the service and a growing number of race complaints made to the CRE.

In July the CRE wrote to Mark Addison, the chief executive of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), informing him that the commission was preparing to mount its own investigation into alleged racism throughout the CPS.

The commission said: "Over the last three years the Commission for Racial Equality has received an increasing number of complaints about the recruitment practice of the Crown Prosecution Service and about the way it manages its ethnic minority staff."

It said the complaints had come from individuals, trade unions and other organisations representing the interests of ethnic minority staff.

The Director of Public Prosecutions, David Calvert-Smith, has proposed funding an independent team of non-CRE investigators to look at alleged racism in his organisation.

He also proposes taking disciplinary action against CPS staff criticised by the Employment Tribunal in two recent cases. The CRE said the tribunal had made "specific findings of racial discrimination and victimisation in relation to the cases of Neeta Amin and Maria Bamieh [two Crown Prosecutors in the London offices]".

In its letter to Mr Addison, the CRE said that the case of Ms Amin suggested a specific need for a formal investigation in order to "formulate appropriate action to eliminate racial discrimination".

Ms Bamieh has already turned down £110,000 to settle the case, and has another CRE-supported case outstanding against the CPS.

The CRE has said it will withdraw from the equality and race relations committee at the CPS because it is considering a formal inquiry.

The new CPS investigator will look for evidence of institutional racism, as defined by the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, within the CPS. Mr Calvert-Smith has also approved plans to appoint more ethnic minority Crown prosecutors to the London offices where they are under-represented.

Next month the CRE's legal committee will decide whether to launch a formal investigation into the CPS. It is understood that Mr Calvert-Smith and Mr Addison hope they have done enough to avert such an inquiry. However, a number of ethnic minority Crown prosecutors see no reason why an independent inquiry, funded jointly by the CPS and the CRE, would be any better.

Last week Andrew Dismore, the Labour MP for Hendon, also raised concerns in the House of Commons about racism at the CPS. He asked the Solicitor-General, Ross Cranston, to find out whether Mr Calvert-Smith had had any race awareness training. If he had not, said Mr Dismore, then perhaps he should.