Public persecution

With questions being raised about his suitability as the new DPP, Ken Macdonald could be forgiven for seeing a conspiracy to unseat him before he has even started work

Ken Macdonald QC must have known that in giving up a lucrative criminal-defence practice at the Bar for the post of Director of Public Prosecutions, he could expect a very bad press if he failed to deliver in his new job.

But three months before he officially takes over as head of 7,700 lawyers and caseworkers at the Crown Prosecution Service, he is already being written off for events that took place long ago.

First, he was accused of being one of Tony's cronies because he helped to set up chambers with the Prime Minister's wife.

Then, last month, reports appeared that Macdonald was convicted in 1971, when he was 18, of sending 0.1g of cannabis through the post and was fined £75.

Yesterday he faced further accusations that he held political views critical of the Home Secretary, David Blunkett.

Macdonald could be forgiven for thinking that there is a conspiracy afoot to unseat him before he has even started work at CPS headquarters in the City.

Certainly the attacks have been unrelenting and well placed. But so far no one has spelt out how any of this makes Macdonald a bad prosecutor. Instead it seems that certain sections of Westminster and the conservative Bar resent the prospect of a lawyer with liberal credentials from having responsibility for all prosecutions in England and Wales. The implication being that only reactionaries who believe in the "hang 'em high" philosophy of criminal justice make good prosecutors. But there has been nothing to suggest that any of Macdonald's predecessors subscribed to this point of view. The DPP, like all the lawyers working at the CPS, must follow strictly the CPS code that stipulates cases can only be brought if there is sufficient evidence and that they are in the public interest.

It is also perhaps worth noting that many of the CPS's most recent woes can be attributed to over-vigorous prosecution rather than a softly-softly approach. The collapsed cases against TV presenter John Leslie and royal butler Paul Burrell illustrate the wisdom of adopting more careful and considered prosecution strategies.

Yesterday's report that Macdonald told MPs in July that he believed part of the Home Secretary's plans for penal reform were "grotesque" stirred up some predictable right-wing rhetoric. Ann Widdecombe, a former Home Office minister, responded: "It is extraordinary that someone who is criticising the Home Secretary in this way has accepted an appointment and will have to implement the policies."

The Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith QC, who has ministerial responsibility for the DPP, was quick to point out that Macdonald made these comments before being appointed to the new post and gave them on behalf of the Criminal Bar Association, of which he was chairman.

Lord Goldsmith's spokesman said: "Ken Macdonald is a strong advocate of reform of the criminal justice system (CJS) to ensure better service in public and that the system does what it is there for - to bring guilty defendants to justice. His background in defence gives him an intimate understanding of the CJS and excellent insight into the problems facing the prosecution." She added: "Of course, in the past he has put forward the views of his association, now as a civil servant he is absolutely committed to effectively implementing legislative changes once government has taken a decision."

Bar chairman Matthias Kelly QC has already given his backing to the appointment of Ken Macdonald. "Ken is nothing short of a superb appointment as the Director of Public Prosecutions," he says.

"It is good news for the Crown Prosecution Service that someone of his energy and vision has been appointed to lead this vital public service organisation at such a crucial time for the justice system. Ken is a man of total integrity who will undertake his duties without fear or favour."

Mr Kelly adds: "The cheap attempts to question his suitability are everything to do with the fact that he happens to practise in the same chambers as the Prime Minister's wife; he is therefore seen as yet another way of 'having a go' at the Blairs. This is stupid and irrelevant to the real issues of justice in society, which we must now all address together."

The past few years have shown that the job of DPP is one of the toughest in public service. Macdonald will not only have to contend with criticism for the handling of thousands of cases each year but also for the conduct and well-being of all his staff.

An independent investigation recently found the CPS to be institutionally racist, while an internal report has shown that a high number of lawyers have suffered from stress. These are the real issues facing the DPP - and the ones on which he will be judged.

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Karen Dunbar performs
Entertainers showcase local wit, talent and irrepressible spirit
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
News
Bey can do it: Beyoncé re-enacts Rosie the Riveter's pose
newsRosie the Riveter started out as an American wartime poster girl and has become a feminist pin-up. With Beyoncé channeling her look, Gillian Orr tells her story
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game