Falconer brands as 'absurd' objections to lay prosecutors

Labour Party Conference

Elizabeth Davidson reports from the Labour Party conference. The Solicitor General, Lord Falconer, has slammed critics from the Bar who have attempted to rubbish the Government's decision to use non-lawyers to prosecute cases.

Speaking at a meeting at last week's Labour Party conference in Brighton, Lord Falconer signalled the government's determination to take on the legal profession on all fronts by describing attempts to defend the prosecuting monopoly enjoyed by lawyers in the CPS as “absurd”.

When Home Secretary Jack Straw announced in August that non-lawyers in the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) were to be given the power to prosecute uncontested cases in magistrates' courts, the move was greeted with derision in many quarters.

And at the Bar conference on 27 September, Bar Council chairman Robert Owen QC said he was “extremely uneasy” about the plans, which he claimed “did not address the fundamental problems in the service”.

Nigel Pascoe QC, chair of the Bar's public affairs committee, also slated the plans, which he compared to allowing hospital administrators to conduct standard surgery.

But last week Falconer rubbished Pascoe's comparison.

“The more you think about this the more unsuitable an analogy it is,” he said. He described the use of lawyers in driving without insurance cases as “absurd” and “a cavalier and unjustified use of resources”.

“One would be pleased to have a nurse dressing a wound but concerned if a doctor was doing it, as you would wonder if that were a fair use of resources.”