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CPS embarks on hiring spree

By Monidipa Fouzder

The Crown Prosecution Service today embarks on a major hiring spree to cope with the extra work that will land on its desk after the government vowed to get tough on crime.

The prime minister has pledged to recruit 20,000 extra police officers. This will result in more work for the CPS, which received an extra £85m to ‘build capacity and manage caseloads’.

Today, the CPS said it aims to hire 390 prosecutors by June, as well as 100 paralegals and administrators in the future.

Max Hill, director of public prosecutions, said: ‘Every day our prosecutors advise the police and make fair and impartial charging decisions on all types of criminal cases. We’ve received a funding boost of £85m and are looking for lawyers from all backgrounds to join us. In return we offer flexible working hours, remote working, which will particularly help parents and carers, and a chance to make a real difference to people’s lives.’

While the additional cash was welcomed at the time, the CPS suffered a 34% fall in its budget between 2008 and 2018. In 2018/19 it prosecuted 494,811 cases. However, the DPP has often spoken about the challenges facing his team, including an ‘explosion’ of digital evidence. Earlier this month CPS inspectors said the faults identified over the years have ‘almost without exception… been caused or exacerbated by the problem of too few legal staff being spread too thinly over a volume of work of ever increasing complexity’.

Amanda Pinto QC, chair of the Bar Council, said: ‘It is good news that the CPS is recruiting more prosecutors. Together with the promised increase in police numbers, this should go some way to address plummeting investigation, prosecution and conviction levels, even whilst crime figures have risen. But the whole system, from start to finish, needs urgent funding, not only for the police and prosecutors, but also to ensure there are enough defence lawyers, enough courts open, and enough judges sitting to hear cases. A piecemeal approach won’t repair the damage done by years of cuts to justice.’

The Criminal Bar Association’s chief, Caroline Goodwin QC, said CPS investment must go hand in hand with investment into criminal legal aid advocacy fees to prooperly handle an increase in the criminal caseload. The ministry is currently reviewing criminal legal aid fees. Indicative proposals on five areas where work was accelerated were supposed to be published last November but were postponed due to the general election.

Meanwhile, Nottingham Law School revealed that it has been awarded one of two UK contracts to train CPS solicitor apprentices. The apprentices will work for the CPS as they complete four years of the LLB Law (Distance Learning) course. In the final two years they will prepare for the Solicitors Qualifying Exam. At the end of the programme, they will have a qualifying law degree and, subject to successfully completing the SQE, will be qualified as solicitors and progress to a crown prosecutor role.

(Courtesy: Law Gazette Society)