Key CPS lawyer commits suicide as report reveals stress

ONE of Director of Public Prosecutions Dame Barbara Mills QC's key lieutenants has killed himself amid growing concern among CPS lawyers about the levels of stress they are suffering.

Paul Burgess, who was head of strategic and change management at the CPS, took an overdose of anti-depressants in February after going missing from his East Sussex home.

News of his death, which has only recently been announced to staff, coincides with the publication of a stress survey conducted by the CPS lawyers' union among staff based at the service's headquarters.

The survey of 44 members of the CPS section of the Association of First Division Civil Servants (FDA) concludes that they are overworked, concerned about their future and afraid to raise their concerns with their superiors.

Burgess's death has inevitably been linked by some CPS lawyers to the findings of the survey. However, no link was made at Burgess's inquest between his death and his work.

His widow Sian told the hearing that he had suffered from depression for many years and had a “built-in death wish”.

East Sussex coroner David Wadman said: “He wanted to die for no reason he could explain logically. It seems his illness, for that is what it was, was entirely in his mind.”

The FDA refused to comment on either Burgess's death or the survey, and it is understood that Burgess's family do not want to be caught up in the general controversy surrounding the future of the CPS.

However, the findings of the survey, conducted among lawyers based at CPS headquarters and its Central Casework Division, are damning and tally with the controversial Mori survey of all FDA staff published two years ago, which found staff morale to have slumped to an unprecedentedly low level.

Asked if they felt there was “cause to be concerned with the levels of stress-related illness within the CPS”, 41 said “yes”, while half said they were not prepared to contact the CPS's in-house counselling service, with several citing lack of trust as the reason.

The survey also found that 72 per cent of the respondents work at least three hours a week more than their standard hours.

A CPS spokesman said that it had fewer people off sick than “a majority of other government departments”.

But he added: “Obviously, we are concerned about the well-being of our staff, and in the light of this survey we have arranged a meeting with the FDA to define the problems and devise constructive approaches to them.”