New guidelines for CPS staff on racism and sexism

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The Independent Online

Staff in the Crown Prosecution Service are being issued with a 23-page guide on avoiding racism and sexism at work days before a damning report on their attitudes is published next week.

The Director of Public Prosecutions, David Calvert-Smith QC, said that new guidance published yesterday meant prosecutors who used racist nicknames or made racist jokes would face disciplinary action. Mr Calvert-Smith said the "dignity at work" guidance was needed because there were "too many people who feel uncomfortable about and even offended by some of the behaviour they see in the office".

The new guidance is intended to pre-empt an independent report, which will show that there is still racism within the service.

Mr Calvert-Smith said the culture in his organisation had to change so that everybody could work "free from discrimination and prejudice".

The 23-page guide gives examples of behaviour the CPS says is unacceptable. This includes using "derogatory nicknames", "racist jokes", and offensive "facial expressions and gestures".

It also contains a list of words that in certain circumstances should not be used in the office, including "spouse" and "handicapped".

Practical jokes on staff with disabilities will not be tolerated, the guide says, listing the worst examples as moving a wheelchair or "unsolicited touching of a visually impaired person".

Mr Calvert-Smith, says in the introduction to the guide: "We do not always treat our colleagues as well as we should. We do not always think hard enough about the effect our words and behaviour may have."

But he acknowledged the CPS was "a stressful" place to work. "Tempers can occasionally run short. Resentments can grow. This undermines individuals' self-esteem and gets in the way of providing a high- quality and professional service to the public."

Next week's report, based on investigations into a series of successful race claims brought by CPS lawyers, is expected to trigger a full inquiry by the Commission for Racial Equality. Institutional racism at the CPS was first alleged in a preliminary report by a senior academic lawyer, Sylvia Denman, published in May last year. In her final assessment, Ms Denman, who is also chairwoman of Camden and Islington Health Authority, is expected to conclude that there are still serious problems.

The Commission for Racial Equality has launched a separate investigation into racism in the Croydon area office, and its own report is expected in the next two months.

The Denman report will acknowledge that some progress has been made in the treatment of ethnic minority staff. The establishment of the CPS equality committee and diversity unit is expected to be praised, as well as the commitment to staff training on racial issues.