CPS ‘paid off underperforming lawyers’
The Crown Prosecution Service used taxpayers’ money to pay off lawyers found guilty of misconduct and handed complex cases to prosecutors who had been criticised by judges in open court, [ital] The Times reveals today.
Underperforming lawyers were assigned fraud and attempted murder trials while others were given large redundancy payments despite having been disciplined.
One former manager claims that she was instructed to give failing lawyers sensitive cases, including rape trials, to protect the organisation from equal pay claims.
The CPS’s dedicated sexual violence division was dismissed as a “complete mess” in 2015, with some lawyers assigned 160 cases each. It is under particular scrutiny after two high-profile rape retrials ended without convictions last month.
Since 2010 the agency has had its budget cut by 25 per cent and has slashed staff numbers by 2,400. In the past five years it has handed out £444,573 in voluntary redundancy payments to nine staff found to have committed misconduct, including three senior prosecutors, freedom of information requests reveal.
In total 123 lawyers at the agency have been found guilty of unspecified misconduct, but only 15 were dismissed.
If people aren’t good enough then they should be managed out or trained up
One senior prosecutor was given a redundancy payout despite bringing the CPS “into serious disrepute”, according to documents seen by [ital] The Times.
Bob Neill, the chairman of parliament’s justice select committee, said that the allegations “confirmed a growing set of suspicions about a lot of CPS work”.
“If people aren’t good enough then they should be managed out or trained up,” he said, expressing concerns that some CPS lawyers failed to disclose evidence properly, leading to unnecessary delays and provoking criticism from judges.
The CPS said that its voluntary redundancy schemes were approved by the Cabinet Office, applied consistently and achieved good value for money. Less than one per cent of staff receiving voluntary redundancy payments had been disciplined.
The service said that it had robust policies to deal with underperforming staff including monitoring and support. It added that concerns over its sexual offences unit were outdated.