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Public Prosecution Service - Fair, fearless and effective

23/07/2009

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC talks about his plans for taking forward the 'public prosecution service' to meet the challenges of the 21st century. He explains the changed role of the organisation and the importance of introducing public-facing core quality standards.

There's an enduring myth that the famous gilded statue on top of the Old Bailey shows justice is blind. Nothing could be further from the truth. Today's public prosecution service prides itself on being not just far-sighted but also responsive to the needs of the public it serves.

Just around the corner from the Bailey is the headquarters of the Crown Prosecution Service, the gateway between the police and the courts. Under its new leader it's a key force in making sure the service moves with the times.

Keir Starmer has been in the job for less than a year, as DPP he heads a service that is merging with the Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office. The organisation employs more than 8000 people, making more than half a million pre-charge decisions every year.

The RCPO merger is all part of what this QC calls the public prosecution service.

This summer Mr Starmer published his plan - The Public Prosecution Service: Setting the Standard. This takes forward the public prosecution service to meet the challenges of the 21st century. He explained the changed role of the organisation.

Keir Starmer QC: There are really two important things here to bear in mind. First is that the function of the prosecutor has changed a huge amount since the CPS was set up in 1986. It's a much broader function and we need to reflect that in our prosecution service. Secondly, the CPS is now merging with the RCPO and a public prosecution service captures the essence of the prosecution service that will go forward in the modern environment.

Voiceover: Mr Starmer's plan says that public-facing core quality standards will be introduced. What does he mean by that?

Keir: Core Quality Standards are about a clear understanding between us as a public prosecution service and the public we serve. They're an opportunity for us to set out what is the service that we deliver to the public and to what level we deliver that service. So everybody can be clear about what's expected from the prosecution service and so that we can be judged by results.

Lloyd Bracey: You're stressing that this is a public service and that the public are your main stake holders. What do you do to communicate with them? How do you go about it?

Keir: We have to communicate in a number of different ways. Everything that we do affects victims, witnesses, suspects and defendants, and it affects the communities that they come from. We must make sure that they're talking to all those constituencies, we'll do it in all of the usual ways. We're looking for newer ways to communicate, so for example we have a YouTube channel that is now set up.

Lloyd: And how do you as DPP see yourself leading the debate on the future of the criminal justice service?

Keir: We're at the hub, we sit there between the police and the courts. Everything goes through us so we are in a very good position to lead on the major discussions and debates that have to be had in the modern environment.

Lloyd: You've been in the job for about a year, what's your assessment of how it's been so far?

Keir: I was persuaded when I took up the post that the prosecution service was in a very good place, that it was confident and it was delivery driven. Everything that I have seen in the last few months has confirmed that to me and I am very happy leading the CPS. I think we have a good platform. We need to recognise that the challenges of the next few years are going to very different to the challenges of the last few years particularly the financial situation.

Voiceover: Courts like the Old Bailey will never be out of work. As society changes, crime is changing, and meeting the challenge of those changes will keep the keep the DPP busy too.

Ends