'Racist CPS prosecuting too many black and Asian people'

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The Independent Online

Too many black and Asian people are being taken to court because of a culture of racism endemic in the Crown Prosecution Service, according to a damning report published yesterday.

White prosecutors are accused of failing to weed out "weak cases" against ethnic minority defendants by not "correcting the bias in police charging decisions".

The independent 18-month inquiry into the CPS also found "unwarranted complacency" over the possibility of race discrimination in the prosecution process.

This culture, said Sylvia Denman, the report's author, "risked jeopardising" the CPS's promise to provide a better service to victims and witnesses of crime as well as improving relations with the local communities.

A second report, published by the Commission for Racial Equality, found that black and white staff had become segregated in one south London CPS office, leading to what one Asian prosecutor described yesterday as "apartheid" working conditions.

The CRE's study concluded that under new laws the CPS could face prosecution for allowing one floor in the Croydon branch office to be occupied by ethnic minority staff only while the one below was dominated by white workers.

In response to the two reports David Calvert-Smith QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, accepted that the Crown Prosecution Service was "institutionally racist".

He added: "Without intending to be, our behaviour can, does and has discriminated. Therefore I unreservedly accept the finding that as an organisation the CPS has been, within the Lawrence report definition, institutionally racist."

He said that as a key part of the criminal justice system the CPS must uphold the highest standards of fairness so that the public had proper confidence in its role in the prosecution service.

But Ms Denman's report also found that some Crown Prosecution Service lawyers believe that ethnic minority defendants are being refused bail in circumstances that are discriminatory.