IT IS ALMOST a year ago that The Lawyer controversially called on Dame Barbara Mills QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, to resign. At the time, we suggested that since a new government had been elected with a set of plans for the CPS that differed radically from her own she had little option but to step down.
It has taken her a year to heed our advice. In her statement last week Mills said that since her contract comes to an end next April it made sense for her to step down early to give her successor the chance to see through "the next phase in its [the CPS's] development" from start to finish. Quite.
It is a pity that it has taken a year for the logic of our argument to sink in. By staying on for such a long time, and then announcing her decision to stand down just before the publication of Sir Iain Glidewell's review of the service, she has given the distinct impression, though she denies it, of having been given little alternative but to leave. This impression is reinforced by the fact that in a defiant interview she gave to The Lawyer last year she expressed confidence that Glidewell's review would "clear the air" by scotching all the negative stories about the CPS. In fact, all the signs are that the report will vindicate much of what the CPS lawyers' union, the Association of First Division Civil Servants, has been saying about excessive bureaucracy and over centralisation within the service.
Meanwhile, in the year that she has remained in office, the atmosphere within the CPS has only got worse. Now, so soon after her resignation, is not the time to reflect on Mills' record, especially as we don't yet know whether the Government's drive to decentralise the service will work. Who knows – wholesale decentralisation might prove disastrous and, in time, Mills' strong uncompromising leadership style may become more appreciated. But one thing is for certain – she should have gone quietly a year ago.