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It is not often that government departments have to apologise as abjectly as the Crown Prosecution Service did last May. In a grovelling statement, it admitted that a joint press release issued with the West Midlands Police was false. The press release had alleged that a Channel 4 television programme, Dispatches, had edited footage of radical Muslim preachers that completely distorted their message, and might have incited racial hatred.

It turned out that there was no evidence of such editing. The police, presumably motivated by extreme political correctness, had essentially made up the allegation. It was all very well to subsequently “accept that there was no evidence that the broadcaster or programme makers had misled the audience or that the programme was likely to encourage… (or ‘incite’) criminal activity” — but the damage had already been done.

An outsider may well wonder if the CPS routinely lets politics influence its decisions in this way, and if the incompetence that led to this particular humiliation is not more general. As an experienced prosecutor, I believe that this incident may be one of many occasions when political considerations may have strongly and wrongly influenced decisions. The CPS can be far more political than people realise.

Before a prosecution can begin, the CPS has to take account of the “public interest.” Not only must there be sufficient evidence to prosecute, there must also be some point to the prosecution. What, many members of the public rightly wished to know, was the point of prosecuting Maya Evans, the lady who was peacefully reading out the names of war victims at the Cenotaph in 2005? Similarly, the decision to prosecute the pro-hunting supporters who invaded the House of Commons in 2004 seems to have been politically motivated. Otis Ferry and his comrades were charged under Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 for conduct liable to cause harassment, alarm or distress. It could be argued that any MP who was alarmed, harassed or distressed by such a puny protest should never have been elected, but the politicians wanted them prosecuted for something.

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Anonymous
January 23rd, 2011
1:01 PM
As a former national spokesman for the CPS (I left back in the early 90s) Your experience almost 20 years ago makes you qualified to comment about the CPS today? The article is almost totally false. As someone who works in the CPS I know for a fact that self employed barristers do not hold a brief from start to trial - more often than not they farm it out to their colleagues. "case workers have no such code or tradition and are more easily scared into line" Utter nonsense. Caseworkers have the same level of protection as lawyers, if they are asked to do something improper as Civil Servants they can make a complaint even up to the independent Civil Service Commission. "reading information sent by fax" Most information is sent by email and the prosecutors do speak to the officer albeit over the phone. "even recording the “ethnic group” of a defendant on its computer system" The CPS has to follow a number of equality requirements as per Macpherson. They have no choice. "The system was much quicker and more efficient, and involved much less paperwork." Birmingham Six, Guilford Four, Bridgewater Three, Judith Ward, Stefan Kisko etc.

Peter C Glover
July 9th, 2008
5:07 PM
As a former national spokesman for the CPS (I left back in the early 90s) I can only agree with every word this article says. However, I have a real problem with publishing anything (Economist take note) that has the byline 'Anonymous'. I have long argued (as a journalist, writer and blogger) that anything written 'anonymously' is not worth the ink expended on it,as it is without any moral value. As far as the reader is concerned the writer may well have an axe to grind of which we would know nothing. Having said that, I welcome Standpoint - we in the UK are desperately in need of breaking the mould of the PC gatekeepers of the news in the liberal-dominated mainstream. It would be good therefore for you to think beyond articles by the 'usual suspects'. Note how the numerous new US sites like Real Clear Politics, The American Thinker and many others major on the strength of the argument, NOT just the same old contracted journos. That's why I, as a UK freelancer, am forced to write for US news mags and online sites, so tied up is the UK op-ed and feature market.

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