Blame culture is not the way forward

In last week's Viewpoint a CPS employee accused the organisation of institutionalised racism. Now David Calvert-Smith replies.

The viewpoint you printed last week from an anonymous Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) employee distorted the facts to an extent that was misleading about my own position and that of CPS staff generally.

So I'd like to set the record straight.

Racism is not tolerated within the CPS. The service's disciplinary code provides for firm action to be taken against individuals who display racist behaviour or attitudes.

I have conceded previously that the CPS is far from perfect – and do so again – but I do not believe it is "inherently racist". I accept that we have not done enough to ensure that people are properly trained and developed to be good managers.

If mistakes are made they should be dealt with by way of education and support, rather than by confrontation and blame. For too long a blame culture has dogged the CPS and sapped its morale, and I want to change that.

To answer the points made: CPS prosecutor Neeta Amin complained of discrimination in her performance assessment report by her line managers but later withdrew the complaint. A proposal to move her to another branch was judged by a tribunal to be victimisation. The CPS has accepted the findings and recognises that the action taken was inconsistent with good management practice.

Our determination to address race equality issues and push them up the agenda was strengthened by the lessons learned from this case. I do not believe, however, the individuals concerned acted in a racist way.

My post and the 42 chief crown prosecutors (CCPs) and three assistant chief crown prosecutors (ACCPs) were filled through open competition with the Civil Service commissioners. We made efforts to recruit people from a range of experience and backgrounds, but the appointments were made on merit alone. Maria Bamieh was one of several who met the standard but was not appointed to a post.

We now have eight women CCPs and two women ACCPs – there was only one female CCP and one person self-declared as an ethnic minority before April's new appointments.

And while all director jobs were advertised throughout the Civil Service, the director of personnel post will be subject to open competition.

The performance box marking statistics are that 28 per cent of white employees get a Box 2 (well above requirements), as do 27 per cent of ethnic minority staff. A high marking in one job does not mean the person is suitable for promotion or would perform as well at a higher grade.

The CPS has been praised by the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (Nacro) for its work on racial incidents monitoring and we are getting better at identifying racially-motivated crime and highlighting these features to the courts. When our information technology is improved staff will have no reason to complain about the form filling needed to count these cases.

We have learned from employment tribunals as well the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) and Nacro. We have commissioned the CRE to research race relations in CPS London. They concluded that our difficulties are more to do with quality of communications than with equal opportunities. We are part of the national mentoring scheme (where new staff are given a mentor to help with any problems), we have racial awareness training for managers, and we are developing a plan to tackle priority issues such as training and monitoring to help ethnic minority staff successfully compete for senior posts.

We are trying to change things, but it will take time. I hope the unnamed member of staff will give myself and the new management team a chance to improve the situation and work with us rather than against us.

David Calvert-Smith is director of public prosecutions at the Crown Prosecution Service.