Thursday, July 23, 2009

Timely rubbish

When I arrived at my desk this morning, and found it covered in a thick layer of files, I was, naturally, a little unimpressed. But my sour mood was suddenly displaced when I checked my inbox, and found an email from our dear leader, the DPP, launching "The Public Prosecution Service: Setting the Standard".

In short, I was wrong to be gloomy. The chaos and stress that then followed for the rest of the day was in fact "the strategic positioning of the prosecution service in the modern environment". Furthermore, I was wrong to be anything other than kind to the CPS, as we "have risen positively to the demands of change. But it is time to bank those changes and move on".

Does one "bank" changes? One certainly changes banks, usually when one's financial advisors suggest it to one over tea. Arguments about appropriate verbs aside, I can see what he means; "that last chap did a lot of work, and there's some credit in it for me". Actually, that's a bit unfair. We have a whole department devoted to churning out this rubbish, and the DPP probably had very little to do with drafting the document. We even paid an external design firm to produce the glossy leaflets.

In any event, Keir Starmer and Ken McDonald are both extremely well regarded individuals at the Bar, and for good reason. Keir Starmer did a lot of pro bono (sorry, that's latin-speak for volunteering) for these two. You can still see a video of a youthful DPP explaining his involvement on that website. His career has been stellar since. Ken McDonald has gone back to his old chambers, shared with Miss Booth QC, wife of former PM (and future overlord of Europe) Tony Blair. Ken seems to have some very sensible views on issues of recent concern.

I seem to be having trouble concentrating on what I'm saying. A marvellous quality in a lawyer. So anyway, from one premier league defence-human-rights-type-chap to another, and the organisation rumbles on.

Out-of-court "disposals" are on the march, onwards and upwards. The DPP acknowledges in the PPS press release that the challenge is clear for the need for "out-of-court disposals to be properly regulated, consistently applied, and publicly transparent" in order to maintain public confidence.

Here's a thought Director, if parliament wanted this sort of oversight, why did they not not make some sort of rules governing maximum penalties, issue some sort of guidelines for the most common situations and circumstances, and then get some respected members of the community to give up some of their time to decide what to do? Why didn't parliament want people watching the whole thing if they so choose? Hey, if parliament wanted public confidence, parliament may even have wanted to add a bit of solemnity to the proceedings, parliament could even have required that we stage the whole shebang in a formal setting, or even make people dress up in suits and other formal attire. People would know what was going on, and everything. So the way forward is clear -- don't tell a soul, and let's crack on with dishing out the cautions.

And just as my blood pressure dips into the safety zone, so, in the middle of all that press-release nonsense that plopped into my inbox today, my eye alights on the bit which seems to have been crafted to irritate me personally: "Today, public prosecutors prosecute their own cases".

Right, that's it. I can't take any more. Full review of the "OBM" to follow...


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