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  • Summer time blues for CPS

    Posted on October 14th, 2009 admin No comments
    Keir Starmer, the £200,000 boss of the CPS. Desk calendars for his staff perhaps? A new holiday rota maybe?

    Keir Starmer, the £200,000 boss of the CPS. Desk calendars for his staff perhaps? A new holiday rota maybe?

    A recent judgement issued by the Information Tribunal has done little to dispel the fears of those who think the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) doesn’t do the greatest job in the world.

    The CPS was ordered to disclose information about a change in policy relating to a defence for reasonable chastisement of children.

    It decided it would appeal the decision to the Tribunal – but it lodged the appeal 37 days outside the 28 day time frame for making such an application, and then claimed it was late because a lot of staff had been away over the summer holiday.

    The CPS then had to put forward “special circumstances” why its appeal to Tribunal should be heard out of time. It said: “The DN arrived just before the summer vacation and because the decision as to whether to appeal involved consultation with a number of other public authorities it took some time to decide.”

    The Information Commissioner opposed the application and the Tribunal ruled against the CPS saying: “The Tribunal has considered these arguments and is not convinced that in the circumstances of this case, where the appeal was submitted so long out of time, that this ground is a special circumstance under rule 5(2).

    “Even if it is the Tribunal is not of the opinion that it would be just and right to allow the appeal to be accepted out of time on this ground alone. The Tribunal is particularly concerned that if it was to allow this application from a public authority whom, because of its functions, is more than aware of the need to comply with court and tribunal rules of procedure, then it would make it very difficult to refuse other applications made on a similar ground.”

    But the story has a happy ending for the CPS as the Tribunal has allowed the appeal as it accepted the organisation’s second “special circumstance”.

    Having lost the initial case in a battle over S.35 (Formulation of Government Policy) the CPS now wants to run its appeal to the Tribunal on the basis that it should have considered S.42 (legal privilege) and this argument was allowed.

    So the moral of the story is: If the CPS, an organisation staffed with a disproportionate number of lawyers, can get away with saying we missed the most important legal point in the initial case and now we are out of time with our appeal – then anybody else should be able to run that argument as well.

    Perhaps a dose of “reasonable chastisement” is needed in the offices of the CPS.

    You can see the original Decision Notice [here] and the Tribunal’s ruling on accepting the appeal out of time [here].