Storm over CPS training 'agenda'

A CPS hidden agenda to use law clerks as magistrates court prosecutors to save money and secure greater staff loyalty has been claimed by a former crown prosecutor.

Barrister Neil Addison claims he was shown internal CPS documents which complain the requirement for all prosecutors to be lawyers is “unnecessarily expensive”.

According to Addison, the papers said prosecutors had to realise they owed “corporate loyalty to the service” and added: “This can best be ensured by achieving a situation where all prosecutors are trained and qualified in the service.”

He claims the papers suggested the CPS could seek magistrates court rights of audience for its clerks or amend the Prosecution of Offenders Act.

“I am particularly concerned at the longer-term civil liberties and constitutional implications,” he said.

The documents relate to a new CPS project called the Case Officer Training Scheme (Cots), which provides casework officers with legal training.

A CPS spokeswoman insisted the scheme was designed to give prosecutors better back up, rather than eroding their own legal responsibilities.

“There are currently no plans to replace lawyers with case workers in court,” she said.

But the CPS lawyers' union, the First Division Association of Civil Servants, has already passed an unprecedented motion urging its 1,300-strong membership not to co-operate with the scheme.

In a statement, FDA national convenor Kevin Goodwin said it was in the public interest that only prosecutors who were qualified lawyers could review cases lawfully. “My members are…dedicated and committed to not only serving that public interest but also protecting it.”

The Bar Council, which has been briefed by Addison, expressed concern about rumours it had heard from “various sources”. A spokeswoman said: “We are writing to the Director of Public Prosecutions Barbara Mills to seek clarification.”

Addison, who left the CPS last year after being suspended for writing newspaper articles without its consent, has also highlighted an impeding budget cut at the service.

He said the documents showed lawyers were to be the prime target for cutbacks, and regional chief prosecutors had collectively written to Mills claiming redundancies would threaten the service's ability to fulfil its statutory duties.

The CPS spokeswoman denied Addison's collective protest claim but confirmed the expected budget for this year was £288 million – £9 million less than last year.

“We hope to achieve savings by efficiency measures. When they are put into effect we will be able to do the same work with less staff, but we hope we will achieve the reduction through natural wastage.”