CPS disbands its elite casework team

THE CPS is to disband the elite team of special casework lawyers who are responsible for handling the service's most sensitive cases, an internal report seen by The Lawyer has revealed.

Although the report recognises that the 45 special casework lawyers in the service are highly specialised and skilful “at use and control of counsel”, it concludes that it is inefficient for teams of specialists to hive off cases from regular prosecutors in CPS branches.

It recommends that the special prosecutors, who make up some of the service's most experienced lawyers and who were responsible for handling the trial of Rosemary West, should be absorbed by the service's branch offices.

News of the shake-up has been met with dismay by the Association of First Division Civil Servants, which published a Mori poll last week that revealed high levels of discontent with the service's management among prosecutors.

Kevin Goodwin, CPS convenor for the FDA, said: “We believe it will seriously damage the fight against crime, particularly serious crime.”

Special casework lawyers, who are based at the service's area offices, were brought into being six years ago to handle “some of the most serious and sensitive casework in the service”, according to the report.

It said: “We found that the process which determines where a case is handled… is complex, open to misinterpretation and as a result does not operate efficiently. Time and energy are devoted to a debate about where cases should be handled rather than how best they can be handled.”

A CPS spokeswoman confirmed that the report was being implemented, although she stressed each of the service's 13 prosecuting areas had discretion to introduce it in their own time. She insisted the special casework lawyers were not being disbanded, but sent to branches “in order that they can offer their expertise to them”.