England: DPP accused of living in bubble over shambolic state of courts

Alison Saunders

The Director of Public Prosecutions has been criticised for living in a bubble over the shambolic state of magistrates’ courts – in particular poor advocacy standards.

Alison Saunders said she goes to court “every few months, probably”.

She appeared before the Justice Select Committee, telling MPs: “I go as much as I can, which is not as often as it should be. I will pop up to court every now and again.”

But Conservative MP, Philip Davies, said Ms Saunders was complacent about the situation.

He said: “One of the most depressing things anyone can possibly do is to go to court and see the standard of the crown prosecutors, particularly in the magistrates’ courts, where it’s little more than a shambles, often.

“I was sat there watching a magistrates’ court case where the crown prosecutor was shuffling his papers, saying, ‘No, I don’t seem to have that file’.”

He added that in certain instances lawyers were “literally reading out in court” case files for the first time.

Addressing Ms Saunders, he said: “Can I suggest you spend a bit more time in court? See what goes on in the real world because, with respect, you’re in a bubble.”

However, the DPP said staff and magistrates had given good feedback and that prosecutors would not be “shuffling their papers” because most cases are “transferred digitally”.

Ms Saunders added that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had still received an additional £4.4 million it required to deal with terrorism cases despite a 23 per cent cut in resources over three years.

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