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.

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Sport
The giant banner displayed by Legia Warsaw supporters last night
football Polish side was ejected from Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
news
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Junior Analyst - Graduate - 6 Month fixed term contract

£17000 - £20000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

SAS Business Analyst - Credit Risk - Retail Banking

£450 - £500 per day: Orgtel: SAS Business Analyst, London, Banking, Credit Ris...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone