WHAT FOLLOWS IS PUBLISHED VERBATIM FROM AN ANNOUNCEMENT THAT APPEARS ON THE BAR COUNCIL WEBSITE.
AS EVER, YOUR COMMENTS IN RESPONSE ARE WELCOME.
THE FOLLOWING EMAIL WAS LEAKED TO THE CHAIRMAN OF THE BAR, THE CBA AND THE CIRCUIT LEADERS LAST FRIDAY
Sent: 15 January 2013 18:11
Subject: The tick and star system
Please can I encourage you all to adopt a system devised by and his team at Isleworth when we were LAUs?
This is a system of putting a tick or a star * on the right hand corner of your brief backsheet after completion of the PCMH when the case has been set down for trial.
The tick is an indication that this case should be briefed out to the external bar and the star is an indication that the case should be briefed to a Crown Advocate.
The reason for doing this is to give the clerks back at Drummond Gate a helping hand when they are faced with the mountains of briefs from all of the 5 Crown Courts.
The way we worked this system at lsleworth and Harrow was as follows:
Tick .we would tick the cases that we didn’t want to do – ie messy ,troublesome cases with lots of complications. We also -would tend to tick the low earners – burglary, going equipped category E, F and H offences.
Star * we would star the cases that we wanted to keep in-house so the higher earners – category B – robbery with a weapon, PWIT’s or category J – indecent images. We would also try and keep in house cases m here we could anticipate that they would end up cracking either because the evidence was weak and not likely to Improve or the witnesses were not going to turn up.
The tick and star system acts as a guide to those who have the unenviable task of allocating the brief post PCMH.
Obviously we are keen for advocates to progress and develop their skills and we would encourage everyone to be proactive in seeking out trials that they want to do in order to develop themselves. In that situation where you have done the PCMH and you want to do the trial .star* the brief and e-mail the clerks or your line manager and ask for that trial to be allocated to you.
We are all appalled if not surprised by this practice and we have issued the following statement:
LEAKED EMAIL SHOWS CPS PUTS COST FIRST, QUALITY SECOND
WHEN PROSECUTING SERIOUS CRIMES – BAR LEADERS
The Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales, along with the Criminal Bar Association and Circuit Leaders have today published evidence that the Crown Prosecution Service (‘CPS’) has adopted deliberate practices not to instruct the correct advocate for a given case if there is a financial interest to the CPS in keeping the work in-house.
An internal CPS email reveals beyond doubt what the Bar has long thought to be the practice in terms of how the CPS instructs advocates, namely:
- Complex, difficult or ‘messy’ cases requiring a superior level of expertise are briefed out to the independent Bar – especially if they are likely to be poorly remunerated, and
- Cases which are weak or likely to be particularly profitable are to be kept in-house, which will lead to misleading figures as to how cost effective in-house CPS advocates are.
Maura McGowan QC, Chairman of the Bar Council, also speaking on behalf of the Criminal Bar Association and all the Circuit Leaders, said:
“The public interest demands that the correct advocate is instructed to prosecute a case based on skill and the complexity of the case. Today, we are able to show, with incontrovertible evidence that the CPS is deliberately acting against the public interest and the best people are not being used to prosecute serious crimes.
“The emergence of the CPS in-house advocate and the focus on cost and budget rather than quality of advocacy is a serious blow to the criminal justice system. We would never have known for certain that this practice was going on, without the evidence that we are publishing today.
“The public and the Bar might justifiably believe they have been misled.
“Both Michael Turner QC and I have informed the Director of Public Prosecutions on the topic. He has offered his apologies and has stated in terms that this communication was unknown to him or anyone in his office and does not represent any general policy. He has promised a full investigation.
“We await that investigation to see whether the stated method of instruction in the attached email is indeed limited to the five North London Courts or if the notion of dividing work with cynical disregard for standards is more prevalent than we have been led to believe.
“Whilst, of course, we accept the Director’s word that it does not represent policy, it exposes a culture that has grown up within the CPS that is driven by cost and cost alone. The instructions contained in the email demonstrate an utter disregard for ensuring that cases are prosecuted by those with sufficient experience and skill to do so.
“Equally, whilst recognising that the Bar is best equipped to deal with cases, it encourages the use of in-house advocates wherever possible. It is clear to us that, in introducing CPS cuts, no proper impact assessment was carried out. A culture such as the one exposed by this email cannot be dealt with by proclamation alone. The only remedy is to fund the service adequately. We would urge the Government to recognise that their present regime of cuts neither serves the victims of crime nor presents value for money for the taxpayer.
“We have written to the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice and the Attorney General to make them aware of this practice.”