A battalion of sorrows

Spare a thought for the Director of Public Prosecutions. The image of his service is in tatters and morale is at an all-time low. Now, faced with the Herculean task of implementing reform, half his chief crown prosecutors have quit. Surely things can only get better. Robert Mendick reports.

David Calvert-Smith admits to suffering sleepless nights as he attempts to reorganise the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for the third time in its short history.

It is a mammoth task. His brief runs something like this: take a totally demoralised staff, including 2,000 lawyers, throw in a 250-page highly critical report, shake up, stir, and hopefully by April all will be well again within the CPS.

Nevertheless, Calvert-Smith (pictured below) remains optimistic about the restructure, which is based on the key recommendations of the Glidewell Report.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), only appointed last November, is giving his first post-Christmas interview, high up on the seventh floor of CPS headquarters, overlooking St Paul's Cathedral.

He says: “The first two months were spent getting to know everyone, learning as much as possible about what the job entails and starting to take control of the way in which the Glidewell reforms are going to be implemented, which means the order in which it is all going to happen, managing the inevitable anxieties and difficulties which the employees are going to suffer until they know how the service looks after 1 April and how their positions in the service look.

“I am very optimistic that the way things are going is the right way. Of course, it's going to be very hard work for the next six to 12 months, but I am sure at the end of it we will have a better CPS.”

A lot of people are willing Calvert-Smith to succeed. Morale under his predecessor Dame Barbara Mills hit an all-time low, culminating last summer in the publication of the damning Glidewell Report and Mills' early retirement.

When the CPS was born in 1986, it was divided into 31 areas, each with its own chief crown prosecutor (CCP). Seven years later, Mills reduced the number of areas to 13. Sir Iain Glidewell was highly critical of the change. His report stated: “We believe that the price paid in the over-centralisation of management was too great.”

It adds that “with the benefit of hindsight we conclude that, however good its intentions, the 1993 reorganisation was on balance a mistake”.

The result is that, come 1 April, the CPS will once more undergo enormous upheaval. It will have 42 areas and 42 CCPs to coincide with the 42 policing areas in England and Wales.

The decision to return to a structure more along former lines means that the 13 existing CCPs were asked to apply for the new posts. According to reliable sources, only six are bothering to do so. The other seven are either retiring or taking redundancy – and receiving lucrative pay outs into the bargain.

This massive brain drain is a problem Calvert-Smith acknowledges, but he is convinced younger talent will emerge from the ranks. He is interviewing 88 candidates over the course of the next six weeks – the largest ever civil service recruitment drive at such a high level. It is likely the success of the new regime will stand or fall according to the calibre of the 42 CCPs he appoints.

Several of the existing CCPs have confirmed they are leaving. They are: Mike Graham, in charge of CPS North; Chris Nicholls (South East), who will stay for a short time “in a different capacity”; Donald Adams (Humber), who at 63 is due to retire anyway; Brian McArdle (East Midlands); and Andrew Prickett (Wales). The other two understood to be quitting are Graham Brown (Merseyside and Lancashire) and Gordon Etherington (London) (see opposite).

All will receive the standard civil service redundancy package, although those aged over 50 will be entitled to an early pension instead. Pay outs, according to sources, could easily top u1m.

One CCP who is standing down says: “The only reason I am going is because there is a package available.

“Obviously experience is leaving the CPS, but I think you have to realise the people coming up are extremely able. The torch is passing on to the next generation and that is always a good thing. But I am sorry I am going. It would have been a pleasure to serve David Calvert-Smith.”

The CCP also expressed loyalty to Mills, accusing the media of giving her a bad press. “She was extremely far-sighted and achieved an awful lot in the criminal justice system. Certainly, 10 years ago you could not have talked about a criminal justice system as if it meant anything. In the last seven years you have seen that established,” he says.

But Calvert-Smith, with new chief executive Mark Addison, has been quick to ring in the changes. Into the CPS structure come two new posts, effectively deputies to the DPP. The new director of casework is Chris Newell, while the director of policy is Garry Patten.

Newell's appointment throws into question the future of the 14th CCP and the only woman in the ranks, Dru Sharpling, who is currently head of central casework based at HQ. She is understood to be “considering her position”, according to sources.

Stephen Wooler, a former CCP for Outer London North, replaces Newell as chief inspector, whose task it is to monitor the service. Wooler currently works in the legal secretariat attached to the Attorney General's office.

These personnel changes are only part of the difficulties that lie ahead. Calvert-Smith admits: “The most difficult areas of Glidewell are, in no order, criminal justice units, trial units and information technology.”

Criminal Justice Units (CJUs) are envisaged by Glidewell as single integrated units in each of the 42 areas, to allow the CPS to assume responsibility for the “prosecution process from the point of charge”.

According to Glidewell, CJUs will be “either a police unit with one or more CPS lawyer working permanently in it, or a CPS unit with some police staff”. Glidewell was firmly in favour of the second option. Trial units will be responsible for all prosecutions in the crown court.

But putting the flesh on Glidewell's proposals is not so simple. There will be power tussles with the police over control of the CJUs. And it is made more complicated by the fact that each of the 42 police forces in England and Wales will have its own view on what is the best way to forge ahead with the system.

Meanwhile, Calvert-Smith admits that IT is one issue he is “standing pretty well clear of”. However, the absence of an integrated IT-based case management system is a cause of immense concern.

The CPS has only now decided to opt for a private finance initiative (PFI) to pay for the system. But it will be three to four years before the system is effectively put into place.

Come 1 April, it is clear that not all the Glidewell proposals and new structures will not be up and running. As a CPS spokeswoman admits: “There is not going to be a big bang. You cannot do it all in a day.”

The best the CPS can hope for is as smooth a transition as possible. It is more than likely that Calvert-Smith will be keeping his fingers, and no doubt his toes, firmly crossed.

Crown prosecution service – the vital statistics

Have the CPS' facts at your fingertips. Check out The Lawyer's guide to the figures that matter:

Spending

Total expenditure: u320m.

Running costs (including salaries of staff) and capital expenditure: u225m.

Prosecution costs (largely counsel and witness fees): u95m. This compares to u682m spent on criminal legal aid for defendants.

Caseload

The CPS dealt with 1.4 million cases. Less than 10 per cent – about 128,000 cases – went to Crown Court. The majority – about 1.3 million – were handled by magistrates.

Conviction rate

Of 96,000 cases which proceeded to trial in Crown Court, including guilty pleas, 90.6 per cent resulted in conviction.

The proportion of convictions resulting from a not guilty plea was 59.8 per cent in 1997 to 1998, compared to 54.6 per cent in the previous year.

Employees

The CPS employs 6,000 staff, including 2,000 lawyers – the largest employer in the legal profession.

Staff numbers peaked in 1995, with 6,400 total – 2,200 were lawyers.

At its launch, the CPS employed just 3,500 people, including 1,250 lawyers.

Sources: CPS annual report 1997 to 1998; the Glidewell Report 1998.

Curse of the DPP

IT's a top job, but the £100,000 post of Director of Public Prosecutions has been nothing but trouble for its incumbent. Will David Calvert-Smith QC be the first to buck the sorry trend?

1987-1991 Sir Allan Green QC

Resigned after being caught kerb-crawling in a London red light district.

1992-1998 Dame Barbara Mills QC

Retired early under a cloud two weeks before publication of a damning review on the CPS. During her reign, Mills' husband was the victim of crime when he was stabbed by muggers outside his home.

1998-? David Calvert-Smith QC

A popular choice with a Herculean task of reform and image building.

The CCP who is standing dwn says:”The only reason I am going is because there is a package available. “Obviously experience is leaving the CPS, but I think you have to realise the people coming up are extrememly able. The torch is passing on to the next generation and that is always a good thing. But I am sorry I am going. It would have been a pleasure to serve David Calvert-Smith.” The CCP also expressed loyalty to Mills, accusing the media of giving her a bad press. “She was extremely far-sighted and achieved an awful lot in the criminal justice system. Certainly, 10 years ago you could not have talked about a criminal justice system as if it meant anything. In the last seven years you have seen that established,” he says.

But Calvert-Smith, with new chief executive Mark Addison, has been quick to ring in the changes. Into the CPS structure come two new posts, effectively deputies to the DPP. The new director of casework is Chris Newell, while the director of policy is Garry Patten.

Newell's appointment throws into question the future of the 14th CCP and the only woman in the ranks, Dru Sharpling, who is currently head of central casework based at HQ. She is understood to be “considering her position”, according to sources.

Stephen Wooler, a former CCP for Outer London North, replaces Newell as chief inspector, whose task it is to monitor the service. Wooler currently works in the legal secretariat attached to the Attorney General's office.

These personnel changes are only part of the difficulties that lie ahead. Clavert-Smith admits:”The most difficult areas of Glidewell are, in no order, criminal justice units, trial units and information technology.” Criminal Justice Units (CJUs) are envisaged by Glidewell as single integrated units in each of the 42 areas, to allow the CPS to assume responsibility for the “prosecution process from the point of charge.”

According to Glidewell, CJUs will be “either a police unit with one or more CPS lawyer working permanently in it, or a CPS unit with some police staff”. Glidewell was firmly in favour of the second option. Trial units will be respobsible for all prosecutions in the crown court.

But putting the flesh on Glidewell's proposals is not so simple. There will be power tussles with the police over control of the CJUs. And it is made more complicated by the fact that each of the 42 police forces in England and Wales will have its own view on what is the best way to forge ahead with the system. Meanwhile, Calvert-Smith admits that IT is one issue he is “standing pretty well clear of”. However, the absence of an integrated IT-based case management system is a cause of immense concern.

The CPS has only now decided to opt for a private finance initiative (PFI) to pay for the systme. But it will be three to four years before the system is effectively put into place. Come 1 April, it is clear that not all the Glidewell proposals and new structures will not be up and running. As a CPS spokesman admits: “There is not going to be big bang. You cannot do it all in a day”.

The best the CPS can hope for is as smooth a transition as possible. It is more than likely the Calvert-Smith will be keeping his fingers, and no doubt his toes, firmly crossed.