The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Keir Starmer QC, came to see us yesterday at the Home Affairs Select Committee for what is likely to be his last appearance before us.
Mr Starmer has gone some way to open up the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to greater scrutiny by explaining and reviewing decisions. That is very welcome but the DPP has had greater difficulty accepting the reason why this is necessary – that the CPS sometimes gets things wrong.
That blindness seemed particularly to the fore in my final ten minutes of questioning him, with the DPP seeking to defend the following propositions:
- The CPS must be right to have brought a case if it is not struck out at half time by the judge for giving ‘no evidence’. This despite the media criticism in the Le Vell case being that there was ‘no corroborating evidence’ and the requirement for the CPS to prosecute being ‘sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction’ (and it being in the ‘public interest’).
- When a case is ‘reviewed’ and a prosecution decision is reversed, neither decision can be considered wrong and, despite this partly depending on whether there is a complaint, celebrities are treated exactly the same, as if every case is reviewed by his principal legal adviser Alison Levitt QC.
- Were I to suspect him of criminality in office I should take this to the police, and not just leave it to the Bar Standards Board, although when there is sufficient evidence to prosecute doctors for gender selective abortion, that is not in the public interest because the General Medical Council can be left to deal with it.
- Failure by the police and CPS to prosecute anyone for gender selective abortion for over five years, including in a high profile case where the CPS agrees there was ‘sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction’, will make no difference to the number of girls aborted.
Unfortunately, I did not have time to follow up with the DPP on the first issue on which we crossed swords two years ago. That was when the CPS impeded the Metropolitan Police from prosecuting more journalists for phone hacking by advising them that they would have to prove that the message was hacked before the recipient first listened to it. That utterly wrong and deeply damaging CPS advice for which we can blame the whole Leveson circus was finally ruled against by the Court of Appeal last month.
We are still waiting for any apology from the CPS.