The CPS has written to barristers instructing them they may lose work if they join a day of action against legal aid cuts on 7 March.
The Crown Prosecution Service in London has written to barristers warning them that they may lose state prosecution work in the future if they decide to join a planned day of action on 7 March in protest over cuts to legal aid.
Heads of chambers received a letter on Thursday giving them 24 hours to reveal if they would provide the normal level of service on that day.
The letter declares that the relationship between the CPS and barristers is “a customer/supplier relationship built on trust and the regular provision of a reliable service. The CPS and wider criminal justice system has benefited from the skills, commitment and dedication of prosecuting counsel and, in turn, many counsel have benefited from a regular supply of prosecution work.
“It would be wholly wrong in our view for prosecution work to be targeted by individual members of the bar and/or chambers.
“If barristers decide not to honour their professional commitments in respect of CPS instructions then their own actions could cause a detrimental impact on the positive relationship that we have hitherto enjoyed.”
The Ministry of Justice said the letter had not been sent at the request of any politician.
The letter – sent by Baljit Ubhey, the chief crown prosecutor for London – says she fully expects prosecuting counsel with a fixture listed on 7 March to honour that fixture, whether the case is listed for trial, sentence, a plea and case management hearing or any other fixed hearing.
The letter says: “We would ask you to confirm that your chambers will continue to provide its usual level of service … from 7 March onwards. We would ask for confirmation in writing by 28 February 2014 covering the position from your chambers. It is obviously not practicable for us to make individual contact with every member of your chambers so we would ask that you provide a consolidated response.”
A senior prosecuting barrister said: “The CPS should focus on convicting criminals rather than doing [justice secretary] Chris Grayling’s dirty work for him. This is a gun to the head of those who prosecute rape, murder and other serious crime. It’s outrageous for the CPS to demand total capitulation within 24 hours, they are trying to divide and rule. Criminal barristers have to take the flak when the CPS make mistakes, it’s us who face the wrath of judges. I thought the CPS were supposed to stay out of politics. If they aren’t going to support us at least they should get on with the job of keeping the streets safe.”