Government must clarify future of CPS, say staff

STAFF at the Crown Prosecution Service have welcomed the Government's decision not to turn it into a Next Steps agency but say the future is still uncertain for the service.

The announcement to preserve the service's status as a government department was made by Attorney General Sir Nicholas Lyell.

In an answer to a parliamentary question, Lyell said it would not be right to restructure the CPS. But the service, along with the Serious Fraud Office, would be introducing management reforms in line with Next Steps principles.

He said the service had a special status as an “independent” prosecuting authority and a “well-established” relationship with the Attorney General.

Agency status would have almost certainly eroded the service's independence.

Rod Chapman, of the Association of First Division Civil Servants, welcomed the decision but attacked the Government for spending so long to make up its mind. The review started in December 1993.

“A great deal of effort, time and expense has been put into a review which hasn't made the decision any better or worse.

“However, I am concerned that this isn't the end of it. There's still a great deal of uncertainty about the future.”

He cited police pressure for CPS work to be devolved back to local forces which have received support from the Labour party.

In a message to staff, Director of Public Prosecutions Barbara Mills said the decision had brought to an end “a good deal of uncertainty about the future status of the CPS”.

She added: “My role is a statutory one, unlike most Permanent Secretaries in charge of Whitehall departments, and the CPS has specific statutory powers.”

The review had sparked off widespread fears that sections of the CPS could be privatised.

Last year the FDA lobbied MPs and peers highlighting their fears.