Raj Joshi: CPS problems won't help justice for all

Tuesday 23 February 2010 01:00 GMT

The difficulties expressed by yet another frustrated Crown Prosecution Service employee are unfortunately symptomatic of difficulties with the criminal justice system. While one may question this particular lawyer's anecdotal and partisan evidence, the fact that the CPS still faces serious problems and criticism will be a warning sign to the next government.

The frustrations are not new and in any robing room in any Crown Court across the country you will hear similar concerns expressed by barristers trying to do their job in accordance with the rule of law. The difficulty is identifying the root cause of the malaise in what is meant to be a service which provides justice to all. I do not believe the blame lies solely with the CPS and we need to have a no-nonsense justice service. We need quality lawyers in court to stop more criminals escaping the law.

Money will be at the heart of this challenge. But when everybody is strapped for cash it becomes difficult for the CPS, with a budget of more than £600m, to justify being given more resources for its staff. In recent years the CPS, which deals with about a million cases per year, has been rocked by allegations of poor performance and obsessiveness with targets as well as the poor implementation of government policy. Today the CPS has its own policy and business development directorate which liaises, comments and decides what prosecutors can do "in the public interest". One may ask why this is necessary when everyone knows how much money could be saved by simply axing some of these functions.

A new partnership between the public, lawyers, courts, probation and ultimately prisons needs to be forged so that it gets away from backbiting and leads to a truly accountable criminal justice service. The heads of bureaucrats, consultants and managers should roll. How can it be justified in these straitened times that CPS staff are flying all over the world to attend prosecutor seminars when they shoud be dealing with problems nearer home or where political correctness dictates a whole host of CPS employees must "engage with the community"?

Why not simply ensure that able barristers and solicitors, properly briefed prosecute cases in the interests of justice?

Raj Joshi is former director of legal practice and quality assurance at the CPS and now a barrister at 18 Red Lion Court

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