The Crown Prosecution Service's latest recruitment spree for deputy chief crown prosecutors, who will be paid up to £93,247, has 'really incensed' practitioners, according to the criminal bar chief, who is preparing to meet the director of public prosecutions this month.
Criminal Bar Association Chris Henley QC has told prosecution chief Max Hill QC in a letter that anger about the treatment and remuneration of prosecution advocates 'is reaching boiling point'.
Henley cites an email received from a senior counsel, 'who acted in a very serious appeal, and is aghast and furious about his treatment'. The barrister said that after concluding a case for the local complex casework unit, after the jury retired the CPS caseworker was instructed to revisit the page count and provide a final count just below the 2,500 threshold by excluding 'what were now described as "duplicate" pages'.
The barrister said: 'The reality is that despite many requests for so called police analysts/officers to get the detail correct my junior and I had to keep checking and correcting errors. In addition, a number of pages, including the 308-page SOE, were printed for the jury in the correct size of A3 but were nonetheless counted as one page!'
He also received instructions to prepare a response notice to an appeal against conviction related to a large conspiracy. The barrister says he was offered just nine hours to read 700 pages of appeal documents. Under the terms of the instruction, if the matter proceeded to a full hearing before the Centre for Criminal Appeals, the 'assessed' brief fee would be £310, but only if the case did not conclude before 1pm or was not listed after 2pm. 'If so, then the fee is halved and, as boldly stated by the CPS, it includes two hours preparation so in effect at £80 per hour (the fee for the written work) I would be attending the CCA at my own expense or if it lasts a full day the princely sum of just £155,' the barrister said. He returned the brief.
Hill was told the current situation cannot continue. Henley said: 'The latest advert for Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutors has really incensed practitioners. They compare the very generous package on offer - long paid holidays, pension, assistance with childcare costs, flexible but limited working hours - to the hard slog with none of the benefits, responsibility and rubbish remuneration (static for years then cut in 2012) they have to put up with.'
A CPS spokesperson said: 'The DPP has confirmed that the CPS is carrying out a review of the graduated fees scheme for external advocates this year. CPS officials held a constructive meeting with representatives from the Bar Council, Criminal Bar Association, circuit leaders and the Young Bar before Christmas to open discussions. This review will be a thorough, considered process and we will be consulting with the profession over the coming months.'
The spokesperson pointed out that any fee changes 'will need to be agreed in the context of the CPS budget position. It must be affordable now and in the longer term and take into account anticipated changes in future caseloads and mix'.