THE CROWN Prosecution Service (CPS) has performed a policy U-turn and decided to invite private practitioners to apply for the 42 new chief crown prosecutor (CCP) posts being created by the Labour Government.
The news was broken to senior CPS prosecutors in an internal memo sent out last week by director of corporate services David Nooney. The memo also contradicted public statements by saying that redundancies from within the service were "a real possibility".
The new chief crown prosecutor posts are being created following last month's decision by the Attorney General, John Morris QC, to replace the existing 13 CPS areas with 42, each headed by a CCP.
Originally, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Dame Barbara Mills QC, had said that only CPS and Government lawyers could apply for the posts. But a CPS spokesman said it had now been decided to widen the pool of applicants.
Meanwhile, the threat of redundancies has infuriated the CPS section of the FDA, the civil servants' trade union, which said it had devastated morale within the service. "It undermines the credibility of the Attorney General's reorganisation of the service, which had been much welcomed," commented Kevin Goodwin, the FDA's CPS convener.
The redundancy threat contradicts pledges that were made last month by the law officers, Morris and Lord Falconer QC, that the question of further job losses would be put on hold pending an independent review of the service.
The pledge was repeated earlier this month by the CPS when it denied claims by the FDA that it was for the first time considering compulsory redundancies for prosecutors.
A spokeswoman for Morris said it would not be appropriate to comment at this stage.
Last week Morris announced that the retired Lord Justice of Appeal, Sir Iain Glidewell, would head the review of the service.
Glidewell, who has been instructed to report at the end of the year, has a wide-ranging brief which includes assessing "whether the CPS has contributed to the falling number of convictions for recorded crime".