Does Mills have a future as the DPP?

IT IS hard to see how the Director of Public Prosecutions, Dame Barbara Mills QC, can continue in her post. In typical new Labour fashion, the new Attorney General, John Morris QC, has arrived at his job clearly determined to ring the changes. A senior judge will be appointed soon to conduct a wholesale review of the service.

In the meantime, a key internal reform instituted by Mills shortly after she became DPP, the reduction of the Crown Prosecution Service areas from 31 to 13, has been dismantled at a stroke.

The number of CPS areas and the corresponding number of chief crown prosecutors will now be increased from 13 to 42. Worse still for Mills' credibility within the CPS, Morris has gone over her head and written to her staff personally to outline his vision of the service's future.

However polite the letter is about Mills' willingness to co-operate, it is hard to interpret it as anything but a damning indictment of her management of the service. It points to a "perception" that CPS "policies, procedures and structures" have contributed to the decline in convictions by a third and it talks about "systematic inefficiency" within the service.

The DPP does have her supporters and some of her reforms, such as closer liaison between the CPS and the police, have been applauded. She has also come in for a lot of criticism, although nobody could accuse her of not sticking to her guns. Over the past few years she has defended her management of the CPS to the hilt, refusing to blame the government for the dwindling resources which must surely have been a major cause of the CPS's recent problems.

And in doing so she has clearly identified herself with the reforms. Now they have been deemed a failure by her boss, and in such a humiliating way, surely the only course left to her is to resign.