Revealed: future for CPS lawyers

THE DISMISSAL of all CPS lawyers, their re-employment on fixed-term contracts and the use of police to prosecute offences are among a series of options being considered by the service, according to an internal paper.

Magistrates Court rights of audience for non-lawyers is another option suggested by the paper which appears to confirm the claim made by former CPS prosecutor Neil Addison last month that such a cost-cutting move was being considered.

The paper, circulated among senior managers, has been revealed to The Lawyer by a current CPS employee who has asked not to be identified.

It details long and short-term options for the service, currently grappling with an expected £9 million budget cut this year.

Long-term options include:

“All lawyers to be made redundant and re-employed on new, fixed-term contracts.”

“Reduction in number of branch Crown Prosecutors.”

“CPS no longer to prosecute specified offences. Police to do so.”

“Obtain executive officer rights of audience in the magistrates court.”

The paper also suggests executive officers, who are not qualified lawyers, “take certain kinds of basic review work away from lawyers, thus increasing the time available for lawyer review of more serious cases”.

The much-vaunted new CPS policy of making prosecutors responsible for handling cases from start to finish is also questioned by the document.

“The principle of file ownership could be modified to allow some lawyers to concentrate exclusively upon the review function while others did predominantly court work for a given period,” the paper says.

Some short-term measures indicate financial pressure on the service. They include buying second-hand rather than new furniture and “considering whether it is cheaper to give all members of staff an allowance to buy their own stationary and purchase books”.

The document is likely to be greeted with consternation by CPS lawyers, whose union, the Association of First Division Civil Servants, has already passed a motion urging them not to co-operate with a scheme for non-lawyer legal training.

Rumours about radical new CPS plans have been circulating for some time. But when Addison claimed the service was considering using non-lawyers in the magistrates courts, the CPS said lawyers would continue to make all legal decisions and there were no current plans to use non-lawyers with case workers in the courts.