Stress at CPS leads to lawyer's suicide

CROWN Prosecution Service staff are demanding answers from the Director of Public Prosecutions following the suicide of a senior lawyer who had complained of job stress.

Jennifer Hudspeth, who was 44 and single, was a Branch Crown Prosecutor who ran the CPS office for south east London in Bexley. She was found by her mother Dorothy Hudspeth, a magistrate, hanging from a bannister at a block of flats where she lived in Hampstead.

Staff sources say Ms Hudspeth had repeatedly asked for her workload to be reduced at Bexley, and that she had seen a psychiatrist for further treatment for depression two days before she died. A colleague who shared a flat with Ms Hudspeth is one of two at the office who have taken time off work because of the shock.

It is understood that CPS managers are likely to be called to give evidence at the inquest.

The First Division Association (FDA), which represents CPS staff, says it has been pressing for a survey of staff health for two years. “They promised to conduct the survey 12 months ago but it never materialised,” said an FDA spokesman.

“We hope that this tragedy will now prompt them to take action. There has been an enormous problem with the workload for prosecutors, so we are seeking answers from the DPP.”

The CPS says managers would attend the inquest if called. “Managers are very concerned if any of their staff do feel they are suffering from stress due to their workload,” says a spokeswoman.

“Staff can talk to their managers any time and managers will try to do what they can.”

The lawyer's death comes amid growing concern within the legal profession about job stress. A report last year revealed that they experienced higher levels than junior doctors, and the Trainee Solicitors Group reported a huge rise in the number of calls to its helpline last year, including two who felt suicidal.