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THE CROWN Prosecution Service (CPS) suspension of Neil Addison, a senior Crown prosecutor and employed Bar representative on the Bar Council, could jeopardise its hopes for higher court advocacy rights.
One CPS lawyer says: "This is a very serious turn of events. Colleagues are outraged and there have been calls from lawyers around the country wanting to give their support."
Addison, regarded as a free-thinking maverick, was suspended pending consideration of disciplinary action which could result in a reprimand or his dismissal. He says: "It's an action that will harm the CPS more than it will harm me. I'm very sad because I have a loyalty to the CPS."
CPS lawyers say the suspension could hardly have been timed better for the opponents of CPS advocacy rights, occurring the week before the Bar Council annual general meeting.
The suspension is an attempt to crack down on Addison because of his recent newspaper articles, published allegedly without CPS consent. His most recent piece in the The Times was allegedly published against the express orders of principal establishment and finance officer Derek Nooney.
The article concerned the future of CPS barristers in the event of possible restructuring following a current Government review - a subject on which Addison, as a Bar Council member, says he is entitled to comment.
Addison insists he received no warnings before being summoned to London on 25 October. A CPS spokesman says it encourages its lawyers to publish articles, but the Civil Service management code requires they are cleared beforehand to ensure they are uncontroversial.
Lawyers complain there is tension between their commitments as civil servants and lawyers. One CPS lawyer says: "The Bar is liable to rub its hands with glee and once the four designated judges get a hold of this, rights of audience for the CPS will go down the pan with a very firm flush."
The Bar Council says the suspension is a matter between Addison and his employer. But this Saturday's Bar AGM is likely to discuss the fall-out from the Addison affair alongside the CPS advocacy issue.
Addison will be there to propose resolutions that are expected to be strongly supported by employed barristers - particularly in the CPS - and some private practitioners.
A colleague says at least 300 to 400 CPS barristers have indicated they will attend the AGM, normally attended by up to 100 private practice barristers.