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THE CROWN Prosecution Service is facing a growing storm of protest and a possible civil action over the suspension of Neil Addison, a senior Crown prosecutor and Bar Council member.
The Bar Council and leading public sector lawyers are supporting Addison, who was suspended last month for writing newspaper articles on Bar matters. They have blasted the CPS as "insane" for continuing with its disciplinary action.
London firm Penningtons, which is advising Addison, is understood to be considering suing the CPS. Possible grounds include loss of reputation, injury, and breach of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights concerning freedom of speech.
Paul Hadow, head of the firm's litigation department, says: "We have invited the CPS to justify their position in suspending Addison. We are waiting to hear from them."
Director of Public Prosecutions Barbara Mills QC could face calls for her ex-officio Bar Council post to be terminated.
Lawyers' anger is focused on the crucial principle of whether or not an elected Bar Council member's right to write - or even speak - about professional matters should be curtailed by rules governing civil servants' conduct.
Bar Council chairman Robert Seabrook QC declines to comment on the detail of the suspension, but says he is concerned that civil service rules might be used to "muddle or censor" the views of an elected member of the Bar Council.
He adds: "This raises all sorts of important public and professional issues. On the principle involved, he will have our support."
Charles Blake, legal convener for the Government Legal Service section of the Association of First Division Civil Servants, says: "I'm wholly opposed to the CPS and fully support Addison."
Blake, a solicitor, says: "I don't agree with a lot of what he says, but I think it's extremely important that the principle in civil service rules relating to trades union activities should apply equally to members of professional bodies holding elected office.
"The CPS is insane to take this on. It's high time someone put pressure on Barbara Mills to stop her."
That pressure may come at the next Bar Council meeting. Council member Bob Sheddon, a court clerk, says he will call for Mills' ex-officio position to be terminated. He says: "If his right to express his views is being stifled by employment regulations and his employer sitting on the council, then democracy is at an end."