PLOD IN THE FRAME AGAIN

Some interesting news for your delectation:  Alison Saunders, the beleaguered Director of Public Prosecutions, will not be offered an extension to her five year contract when it expires in October.  I wonder why not.

According to Alison, it was her decision to shoulder arms, and any suggestion that the government has had enough of her questionable competence is flatly contradicted by her, but then, it would be wouldn’t it?

Is it only five years since Ms. Saunders was appointed?  It sees much longer.  In fairness to her, she has done her best with limited intelligence to run an enormous and unwieldy service, and inevitably mistakes were going to be made.  But the difference between a leader and an also ran is the ability to sort out the mess, admit mistakes, put them right and move on.

Before the creation of the Clown Prosecution Service in 1986, Plod used to prosecute their own cases on their own patch, they had their own solicitors, and for the most part, their cases were farmed out to local barristers.  It was all very cosy and incestuous.  If mistakes were made, they were ‘corrected’ in-house, and life went on.  By keeping it local, blunders, and worse still, blatant corruption, were swept under the carpet, and the lads stuck together.  Corroboration, an important and independent part of the prosecutor’s armoury, consisted of one police officer signing his colleague’s pocket book to signify agreement without even reading it, and putting it before the jury as the cast-iron truth, on my babby’s life!

The worst excesses of local prosecutions came with the signed confession, long before the days of tape recorders, when confessions were faithfully recorded in the interviewing officers’ pocket books well after the confession was made, and usually over a mug of tea in the police canteen. The oft repeated maxim that the notes were made whilst matters were still fresh in the memory was all that was required.  It was fertile ground for fabrication and ground that was regularly tilled.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that Plod to a man were corrupt, but as they say, all it takes is one bad apple.  The idea that a national prosecuting service would bring respectability to the task of bringing the guilty to justice slowly took root, and in 1986, during the reign of the Blessed St. Margaret, a former barrister, the Clown Prosecution Service was born, in the hope that there would be uniform national standards applied to address the criticisms of incompetence and  worse still, corruption.  It has been better than before, but not without its problems.

But what has been Ms. Saunders’ undoing has been sex, and her pathetic  and dangerously complacent response to it.  I refer specifically to the recent scandal of sexual complainants lying to Plod and even to the jury when no sexual abuse had taken place.  There are all sorts of excuses and explanations, but its root cause is the direction from on high to Plod to believe without question these false allegations.  In so doing, they are not properly investigated, if at all, and for the most part, these allegations take place in private, with one person’s word against another’s.  This is where independent corroboration, not fabricated, is vital in the pursuit of the truth, and sadly, Ms. Saunders has been found wanting.  Worse still, she won’t admit it.

She was an in-house appointment, which was a mistake.  Word on the street is that the government has acknowledged that the post of Director of Public Prosecutions is not one for intellectual pygmies, so the search for the next director will cast a wide net.  It’s a thankless task, so I cannot see many heavyweight legal luminaries putting their names forward.  And before you ask, no, I have no intention of supping from the poisoned chalice.

There is much work to be done, and little time to restore damaged reputations.  So my strong advice to Ms. Saunders in the remaining 6 months, say and do as little as possible to preserve your publicly funded and very generous pension.

TIME TO GO

She lacks judgment, she commands very little respect amongst her peers, she frequently calls the wrong shots, and when she does, she offers no apology, only lame excuses.

No, I am not referring to the beleaguered Theresa May, but to Alison Saunders, the equally beleaguered Director of Public Prosecutions and the star comic act in the Clown Prosecution Service. Indeed, if it were not so serious, it would be laughable.

Within a few short weeks, dozens of revelations about the failure of the prosecution to disclose important evidence to the defence which even an idiot would know might undermine their case have come to light, and in some egregious cases, too late to repair the damage. I refer in particular to the case of Christina Bosoanca, who was wrongly charged with human trafficking offences and held in custody awaiting trial for 14 months.  She even had a baby in prison.  The designated judge described the failure of the CPS and the police to make full disclosure as “incompetence or negligence,” an understatement if ever there was.

And so it goes on.  And what is Alison Saunders’ answer to this appalling state of affairs?  She has ordered a review of every rape and serious sexual assault case.  With the Clown Prosecution Service reviewing itself, it’s like leaving the lunatics in charge of the asylum, and with public confidence in the Service at an all time low, it is doubtful in the extreme if the results of the review will bring this shambles to a satisfactory conclusion.

Ms. Saunders does not tell us how many cases will be reviewed, because she doesn’t know, but as a starter, last year a total of 3671 people were charged with rape, and who can say how many were charged with other serious  sexual offences. She can’t.

And it doesn’t end there. What about those convicted and whose convictions may be unreliable because of the failure to disclose?  As I understand it, there are no plans to reopen old cases, because, when asked, Ms. Saunders was to tell us that as far as she knew, and that wasn’t very far, nobody had been wrongly convicted.  Again, I ask rhetorically, how does she know?  Up until a few days ago, she was denying any crisis, it was business as usual, and negligence, or worse still, incompetence, were trademarks of the Service and nothing to get excited about.

In part these potential miscarriages of justice will persist until the CPS mindset changes fundamentally.  I refer to their approach to rape and serious sexual allegations, which is to instinctively believe the complainant, regardless of any other evidence to the contrary  and the absence of any independent corroboration.

Finally, the sentencing regime needs to be revisited, as sentences routinely passed are excessive, and do not fit the crime, but that’s another matter.

David Osborne is the author of several humorous books on the law.  His latest, entitled Order in Court, is now available in all reputable bookstores and on Amazon.