Crown Prosecution Service in London is 'near meltdown'

Criminals are given 'get out of jail free' cards, leaked private memo claims

Parts of the Crown Prosecution Service in London are in "meltdown" with criminals being handed "get out of jail free cards" while "open and shut" cases are being thrown out of court, a memo seen by The Independent claims.

Next month the prosecution service watchdog is expected to criticise the overall performance of the CPS in the capital after initial findings have found "disturbing" problems in the prosecution of criminals.

A confidential email written by a senior crown prosecutor to a borough crown prosecutor in south-east London warns: "I'm sorry to have to be blunt, but the unit is meltdown ... We are now in the ludicrous position of having open-and-shut cases dismissed; eg where the defendant was seen on CCTV to be placing tracksuits into a foil box!"

Writing in July last year, shortly after the appointment of Keir Starmer QC as the Director of Public Prosecutions, the exasperated barrister complains: "What's more we are at the total mercy of the local defence firms with regard to effective trials ... Cases were five deep across the whole desk; they've now been 'relocated' to the cupboard. Out of sight is out of mind I guess."

He speaks of one case in jeopardy involving a "well-known serial wife beater". "And to top it all off, I've just had a ridiculous email from the DPP about 'Capturing the essence of the new organisation' ... I can see stable yard ... and the essence of this particular part of the organisation is currently being forked out of the horse boxes."

The CPS lawyer also warns about the cost of stress on the staff who end up taking sick leave to cope with the pressures.

He laments: "I didn't come to the Bar to become the personal whipping boy of the criminal justice system. Neither did any of my colleagues. I was promised that the CPS would offer chances to excel, to gain fantastic experience as an advocate, and to be part of the new-look service. All it's provided so far is a chance to be bollocked, day in, day out, by the lay benches, district judges, the police, witness service and the occasional victim."

The disclosure will help to confirm fears that hundreds of criminals across London are escaping justice because of failings by prosecutors to prepare cases for court.

Stephen Wooler, Chief Inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service, told The Independent yesterday that there were serious concerns about the preparation of court files which had a knock-on effect to the conviction rates in the capital. He said that, in the first tranche of nine London reports published last month, not one of the London boroughs achieved a rating of "good", and five, including the one where the disgruntled barrister was working, managed no more than "poor".

Mr Wooler said that while initial charging decisions were "sound" this deteriorated further into the case-handling process.

"This attracts criticism from magistrates and judges when the cases get to court. This seems partly due to resources and deployment but also to the number of London-wide and national initiatives," said Mr Wooler.

Chris Grayling, the shadow Home Secretary, said last night: "I hear all the same frustrations from police officers around the country who think the failings in the criminal justice system mean that criminals are just getting away with it, and that time and again they are re-arresting people for the same offences when they should already have been to court and be facing a prison sentence."

Alison Saunders, Chief Crown Prosecutor of CPS London said: "We have been urgently working to improve our case preparation by moving more staff to deal directly with cases, recruiting more lawyers and training more paralegal support officers. By improving our case preparation and progression in this way I am confident we will see more successful prosecutions.

"The new London senior management team are determined to improve the service we provide to victims and witnesses in London. The nine reports published to date confirm our own findings and it is helpful to know we are addressing the right things."

Prosecution by numbers

1 Million

The number of cases that the CPS handles each year.

72.7%

Conviction rate in London, compared to a national rate of 80.6%

8.5 days

Average working days lost to sickness among CPS staff in the year to March 2009.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker