Director of Public Prosecutions David Calvert-Smith has suggested that the Crown Prosecution Service cannot afford to sack talented staff even if they are racist.
Calvert-Smith told a Law Society ethnic minorities meeting last week that he did not want to dismiss staff "out of hand" even if they had offended in some way.
When Maria Bamieh, currently awaiting an employment tribunal ruling on her claim of racial discrimination against the CPS, asked why people with "racist minds" were still in senior positions, Calvert-Smith said he preferred finding "non-confrontational" ways of dealing with staff.
He said: "Every offence, whether it be an offence of a racist kind or any other, has to be looked at in the round. You don't just dismiss [staff] out of hand if they have a lot to offer. The CPS can ill-afford to lose lawyers of real talent."
When pressed by a member of the audience who said he was "really, really shocked" that the CPS would condone racism among employees "as long as you've got talent", Calvert-Smith clarified his position.
He said employment tribunals sometimes "skirt around the judgment of guilt", but "if someone is proved to be a racist, they will be disciplined or sacked, just as they go for anything else".