Angry CPS lawyers threaten strike

A ONE-day strike and a ban on overtime are being considered by CPS lawyers as a way of demonstrating their “loss of confidence” in the management of the service.

The move follows the publication in last week's issue of the The Lawyer of details of a CPS management paper detailing a series of radical options for the service, including the dismissal of all CPS lawyers and their re-employment on fixed-term contracts.

The legal section of the Association of First Division Civil Servants has received a mandate from members to hold a ballot on a possible “day of national protest”.

But the association's first step will be to seek a meeting with the Attorney General, Sir Nicholas Lyell, to seek reassurances about the service's future.

The outcome of this meeting is likely to determine what further steps the executive committee will take.

The plan for a one-day strike was set in train at a meeting of the section's council last week when it passed a motion to reflect “the overwhelming view of the membership that they are no longer able to properly serve the interests of justice”.

FDA national convener Kevin Goodwin stressed CPS lawyers were moderate and highly professional, and the motion reflected “the depth of their feeling and anger at the present position within the CPS”.

Other “long-term” options in the document revealed in The Lawyer were the use of police to prosecute specified offences and to “obtain executive officer rights of audience in the magistrates courts”.

In a letter in this week's issue of The Lawyer, CPS London chief Crown prosecutor Gordon Etherington reacts furiously to the leak. He claims the proposals were a result of a “brainstorming” session among area managers to look at possible efficiency improving measures.

Etherington said: “All good managers should look at all options, if only to reject them. Even the most outlandish will creep into lists of this type – if they do not then the process to identify the options has not been sufficiently thorough.”

The motion passed at the FDA legal section's council meeting authorises its executive committee to:

“ballot all members on observing a day of national protest to be marked by non-attendance at work” or a ban on overtime;

hold a national debate on the future of the CPS;

hold an opinion poll to determine the views of the membership about “the crisis in the prosecuting services”;

seek a meeting with the Government's law offices – Lyell and the Solicitor General, Sir Derek Spencer QC;

consult with the Bar Council and Law Society over the situation;

instruct members “not to complete any monitoring or other management information gathering forms or plans of whatsoever nature”.