DPP e-mails letter to 2,700 barristers working for Crown Prosecution Service
By Exaro Team | 18 June 2012
Exaro today publishes a letter written by Keir Starmer, director of public prosecutions, to barristers who work as prosecutors in the UK.
Exaro publishes the letter in full below. It is being e-mailed this month to around 2,700 self-employed barristers, including QCs, who do prosecution work for the Crown Prosecution Service. Starmer writes:
Dear [name of prosecutor],
The guilty plea rate in the crown court is 73 per cent, and dealing with guilty pleas properly is increasingly important. In recent months, victims and their families, the Court of Appeal and the attorney general have brought to my attention cases where the pleas, or bases of pleas, have been accepted inappropriately.
“I have required all prosecutors employed by the CPS to take, and pass, a rigorous e-learning course on the acceptance of pleas”
– Keir Starmer, director of public prosecutions
In December last year, the president of the Queen’s Bench division wrote to me indicating that he will refer to me cases that give him cause for concern so that I can look into them. For my part, I have indicated that I will investigate the cases referred to me, and ask counsel for an explanation. More broadly, I have assured the president of the Queen’s Bench and the attorney general that I will do all that I can to ensure that only appropriate pleas, on a proper basis, are accepted by the prosecution.
To that end, I have required all prosecutors employed by the CPS to take, and pass, a rigorous e-learning course on the acceptance of pleas. This process is nearly complete.
However, it is the collective view of the president of the Queen’s Bench division, the attorney general and me that the acceptance of inappropriate pleas, or bases of pleas, is not, by any means, confined to prosecutors employed by the CPS, but extends to the self-employed Bar – both junior and senior.
I would therefore like to work with advocate panel members to address the issues. The CPS is currently exploring with the Bar how we can engage in joint and shared training; in particular we are discussing how the e-learning course on the acceptance of pleas can be made available to CPS advocate panel members (carrying with it CPD points). In the meantime, can I urge you to re-familiarise yourself with the attorney general’s guidelines on the acceptance of pleas, accessible via the following link:
It is axiomatic that when a plea is accepted to a less serious offence than is demonstrated by the evidence, or a basis that does not properly reflect the victim’s experience, a great deal of damage is done to public confidence in the criminal-justice system.
I have discussed this letter with Michael Todd QC, the chairman of the Bar, and with Max Hill QC, the chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, and they both support this initiative.
I look forward to working with the advocate panel on these issues; and have copied this letter to the lord chief justice, the president of the Queen’s Bench division, to all resident judges and to the attorney general.
Keir Starmer QC
Director of public prosecutions