The Government has been forced into an embarrassing U-turn in its shake-up of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) by freezing the appointments of 42 new Chief Crown Prosecutors.
In a written answer to a parliamentary question, published last week, Attorney General John Morris QC concedes that the Government's plans to reorganise the service into 42 – as opposed to 13 – areas, which were announced two weeks after the General Election, cannot now go ahead until after Sir Iain Glidewell finishes his inquiry sometime in the New Year.
The Government initially said it did not need to wait for the report of the retired Law Lord's independent inquiry into the CPS. But in a letter to Morris last Friday Glidewell insisted that the appointments be frozen.
The decision has put Director of Public Prosecutions Dame Barbara Mills QC into the highly embarrassing position of having to write to the candidates she interviewed over the summer, including many from the private sector, to inform them that the selection process has now been “terminated”.
“I am sorry that circumstances have made it impossible to let you know sooner the outcome of the selection exercises,” she says in her letter.
“Even now, the position remains uncertain because it has been decided not to make any appointments at this stage.”
Glidewell's letter said: “We have concluded that the making, at this stage, of appointments as Chief Crown Prosecutors for the 42 new areas would be premature.”
“The selection boards have necessarily proceeded on a [job] description and approach to these posts which could not take account of our work,” it added.
“We are now satisfied that we will wish to make important recommendations about the character and responsibilities of those posts.”
The letter brought to a head a long-running dispute between the CPS and the Glidewell inquiry over the appointments.
Up until now Mills has insisted she had been carrying out the instructions of Morris although some critics believe she wanted to institute the changes straight away so that they could done be on her terms.
Kevin Goodwin, the convener of the CPS section of the Association of First Division Civil Servants, said: “Sadly this is yet another example of the chaotic management that the CPS has been subjected to for the last five years with yet again considerable wasted costs to the public purse.”