Former Crown Prosecution Service officials suggest “the tipping point” has been reached

A number of former senior members of the CPS have expressed concerns that the organisation is in considerable difficulties: BBC, Is CPS on “brink of collapse”? 

The former chief crown prosecutor of the north-west, Nazir Afzal, stated :

“The tipping point was reached in 2015, and it was one of the reasons why I decided that I didn’t want to be part of the service, because I felt it was asking too much of the…… more junior staff, less experienced staff, to do more with substantially less in a climate where they’re constantly under scrutiny”.

Alison Levitt QC, the former principal legal advisor to the former DPP, expressed concern as to the quality of charging decisions within the CPS :

“Some of them were just wrong, and they were wrong in quite fundamental respects. The lawyers who were making them plainly either did not understand what they were meant to be doing or were not applying what it was they did understand”.

Lord McDonald QC described the CPS as being in a “dangerous situation”, stating:

“It’s inevitable when you’re going through a process of serious cuts in an organisation which is expected to retain the highest quality front-line service that some of the headquarters functions – the policy functions, the legal advice functions – are going to suffer”.

Alison Saunders has been in charge of the CPS since 2013. During that time it has seen considerable reductions in budget, along with staffing numbers, without any corresponding decrease in workload. The extent to which the budget reductions affects the three specialist casework divisions of most concern to business crime professionals – the Fraud Division, Organised Crime Division and Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division – is of course not known.

Practitioners will have their own experiences of the CPS, and perhaps feel that front line service has deteriorated. The criticism from three high profile former staff is however unprecedented, and unavoidably something has to give when more is expected for less. A parallel can perhaps be drawn with the Serious Fraud Office, who absorbed repeated budget cuts until the disaster of the Tchenguiz investigation, and were subsequently able to rely on “blockbuster” funding for some high profile cases. Perhaps a more realistic approach to CPS funding is necessary.

Practical Law David Bacon

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