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CPS makes staff redundant in cuts that ‘threaten’ prosecutions

Crown Prosecution Service is already ‘too stretched’ after previous cuts, lawyers claim

By Susan Cooke | 18 April 2013

“The CPS lawyers already have their backs up against the wall”
 – Defence barrister

Problems over the Crown Prosecution Service’s performance will be fuelled by a fresh round of redundancies, lawyers are warning.

Exaro can reveal that the CPS has been quietly making staff redundant through a voluntary scheme, prompting fresh fears over its future.

CPS lawyers were summoned to a crisis meeting last month to be warned that they must improve their performance within two years or see some of their work handed back to the police.

The CPS, whose head office is at Rose Court, Southwark Bridge in London, has embarked on a cost-cutting programme to slash its budget by a quarter by 2015. It employed 8,316 people as of last month, nearly 3,000 of whom were prosecutors. CPS offices in Basingstoke, Bournemouth, the Isle of Wight and Southampton are being closed as part of the cost-cutting, with some staff opting for voluntary redundancy while others are transferring to other areas.

Michael Turner, chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, condemned the cuts, saying: “It is victims of crime who are the ones to suffer from these wrong-headed cuts that end up costing the taxpayer more than they save.”

Another senior defence barrister told Exaro: “The CPS lawyers already have their backs up against the wall without further government cuts causing redundancies. Staff will inevitably be further stretched. It is quality justice that is ultimately threatened.”

A CPS spokeswoman said: “There have been no compulsory redundancies in the CPS, although we have run voluntary exit-schemes for a limited number of staff across the organisation.

“Following the government’s comprehensive spending review in 2010, the CPS, like most government departments, has been required to make savings in its overall budget by 2015.

“The necessary savings will be achieved by a number of different methods, which include ensuring that our processes and systems are effective and efficient, and rationalising our estate, but will inevitably involve a reduction in the number of staff across the service, through voluntary routes.

“Front-line teams have been, and continue to be, safeguarded during this process. We are clear that we can and have been improving the service we deliver even with the reduction in our budget.

“Within the CPS London area, 90 individuals, in various roles, departed under a voluntary exit-scheme by November 2012, and a further 27 members of staff will have left by the end of March. Of those who have left, or are departing, as part of these schemes, only six were crown advocates.”

She added: “All members of staff are made aware of the timetable for the scheme before they apply.” Each area had what the CPS calls a “voluntary-early-release champion” to help staff members with any queries about the process.

Defence barristers say that the CPS’s performance has already been hit by previous cost-cutting.

CPS managers themselves complain that a lack of resources and experienced staff has put them under “unbearable pressure” to meet targets.

And a fortnight ago, a senior police officer warned that victims of crime were being betrayed by the CPS because it was basing charging decisions more on costs grounds than the interests of justice.

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By Exaro News

Exaro News investigates matters of public interest and seeks to uncover the truth.