CPS denies claims of undermining inquiry

BELEAGUERED officials from the Crown Prosecution Service have met with Sir Ian Glidewell – the retired Appeal Court judge who is leading the independent inquiry into the service – in a bid to convince him that they are not trying to undermine his inquiry.

The move follows Glidewell's claim, in a letter to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Dame Barbara Mills QC, that she was pre-empting his review by pressing ahead with the appointment of 42 chief crown prosecutors (CCPs) before his review was completed.

Mills will be keen to avoid a scrap with Glidewell, given the chorus of resignation calls which have followed three successful high court challenges against CPS decisions not to prosecute police officers over deaths in custody and a suspect's alleged intimidation at the hands of the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad.

In a meeting with Glidewell last week, senior CPS officials are understood to have pointed out that in appointing the new CCPs they were acting on the express instructions of the Attorney general, Sir John Morris QC, who in May ordered Mills to make an immediate start on reorganising the service.

The CPS delegation is one of a number to have visited the Glidewell inquiry team over the last few days.

Bar Council chair Robert Owen QC and the Criminal Bar Association are both understood to have met with Glidewell.

Owen is understood to have received a sympathetic reception to his claims that rapists and other serious offenders are escaping successful prosecution because the CPS cannot afford to hire sufficiently senior counsel to prosecute the cases – an issue first highlighted by The Lawyer last autumn.

According to The Times, senior judges have also contacted the inquiry to express their concerns about the CPS via a letter written by Lord Justice Auld which said the service was struggling to cope.