Radical change to be ordered in CPS system

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The Independent Online
A WIDE-RANGING shake-up of the Crown Prosecution Service will be announced this week as its director, Barbara Mills QC, attempts to meet criticisms that it is inefficient and unpopular.

Chief prosecutors from the service's 31 areas have been summoned to London tomorrow to learn their fate under the reorganisation. Many fear they will be given a choice of demotion or redundancy. One CPS lawyer said: 'There are a lot of very worried senior managers around. It's like a roulette wheel.'

The plans involve merging areas to form regional authorities in order to streamline policy- and decision-making, according to a CPS source. The three areas in London are epected to be absorbed into a single body, giving it 'greater leverage with the Metropolitan Police'.

The majority of staff at lower levels will be unaffected, but Chief Crown Prosecutors fear they will have to re-apply for their pounds 40,000-a-year jobs, some of which will inevitably disappear.

The CPS lawyer said that Mrs Mills, the Director of Public Prosecutions, intended to rein in regional managers who have high levels of autonomy at present. 'I think she wants a better national identity and a more national way of doing things. At the moment, there are 31 areas and at least 31 ways of doing things.'

Mrs Mills is attempting to bolster the organisation's image following widely publicised blunders and criticism of some of her decisions since she became DPP in April. Earlier this year, a government committee refused to recommend that CPS lawyers be allowed to practise in higher courts, citing problems of efficiency.

In a recent interview with the Independent, Mrs Mills said the committee had been swayed by media reports of comparatively rare incidents where CPS lawyers had lost documents or arrived with the wrong files. 'But actually when you look back on it, it's one out of 100,000 cases,' she said. But critics will see the reorganisation as an attempt to get a grip on a body with a poor public image.

JUDGES should be monitored by an independent inspectorate which would pull them up short if they were lazy or rude, Lord Williams QC, chairman of the Bar Council, said yesterday.

Opening the Bar's annual conference in London, he contrasted the situation in England and Wales, where there was 'no sufficient measure of judicial quality and expertise', with other countries. 'Our colleagues abroad have judicial review bodies which are not there to harass the judiciary but to point out that if judges are rude, slow, lazy, discourteous or insensitive there might be some remedies which they might avail themselves of.'

At a press conference later, Lord Williams suggested that the new body could resemble Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons. It would not have the power to discipline judges, merely to warn them if they were falling short of the required standards.

The body, which could include lay people as well as judges and lawyers, should be given powers to hear complaints from the public, he said.

The appointment of more High Court judges was important to end the 'insidious' use of deputy High Court judges.