New prosecution chief takes challenges in her stride

11/10/2004

CPS Thames Valley has a new Chief Crown Prosecutor ...

Baljit Ubhey has dived the Great Barrier Reef off Australia's east coast, sky-dived over glaciers, bungee-jumped in New Zealand, and climbed volcanoes in Indonesia ...

... for her next challenge, she is heading up the Crown Prosecution Service in Thames Valley!

Baljit Ubhey is the new Chief Crown Prosecutor for the Thames Valley area, ultimately responsible for the prosecution of criminal suspects in the counties of Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

That she is a determined go-getter is beyond doubt.

She is still young. Certainly by historic standards for her new role as 1 of 42 Chief Crown Prosecutors in England and Wales. This achievement alone is a mark of her standing in the Crown Prosecution Service.

Having entered the Crown Prosecution Service as a legal trainee in the early 1990s, Baljit has worked her way up the ranks to become Chief Crown Prosecutor in one of the largest CPS areas outside of London. Her predecessor, previous Thames Valley Chief Crown Prosecutor Simon Clements, is now a Director at the CPS in London.

Most recently, before her appointment as Chief Crown Prosecutor for Thames Valley, Baljit worked as a Senior Policy Advisor in the Policy Directorate at the London CPS headquarters. Her role there involved identifying loopholes in legislation, and advising on best possible policies in pursuit of a fair and robust criminal prosecution process.

"I am excited about delivering on some of the real challenges which lie ahead for the CPS in Thames Valley," Baljit says of her new appointment.

Baljit took up the role of Chief Crown Prosecutor for Thames Valley CPS as the prosecution service assumes statutory responsibility for charging of criminal suspects a function previously carried out by the police. In a marked and significant change to the way police and prosecutors work as a prosecution team to bring criminal offenders to justice, prosecutors in Thames Valley are stationed at main police charging stations across the region as duty prosecutors as part of the new charging arrangements. This sees all but a number of designated offences still to be charged by the police being charged by prosecutors.

Added to this, the CPS in Thames Valley has recently come under some criticism from inspectors of the prosecution service. Although acknowledging an increase of 11.25% in the number of offenders brought to justice in Thames Valley (against a national average of 6.99%), inspectors raised several concerns in their report.

"As the new Chief Crown Prosecutor, I am determined to make progress on these issues and build on the good practice acknowledged by the inspectors," Baljit says.

Walking into this testing scenario to take charge of the Crown Prosecution Service in a multiple-county area as a newcomer is no easy task however, seems to be a welcome challenge to a woman who makes no bones about meaning business. Baljit has not bungee-jumped in New Zealand and sky-dived over glaciers on any timid spirit and it is this same spirit she clearly brings to her career as a lawyer.

Baljit studied law at the London School of Economics where she obtained her LLB degree before joining the CPS. Her time as a legal trainee with CPS Hertfordshire exposed her to child protection and family law. In 1995, she set up and chaired Liveline, a charity providing counselling support services for children and young people in east London. She has also been a management committee member of Newham Asian Womens Project, a charity assisting women suffering from domestic violence.

Baljits time at the CPS has seen her fulfil several roles, from Senior Crown Prosecutor in one of Londons busiest courts, to National Diversity Manager in the wake of a threat of investigation by the Commission for Racial Equality, and a Senior Policy Advisor managing major projects for the CPS nationally.

On a visit to Australia during 2002, Baljit spent time with the office of the Australian Director of Public Prosecutions in Sydney.

Also in 2002, Baljit led the UK delegation to the G8 Sub Group on High Tech Crime in Ottawa, Canada, having been the national CPS representative on the Internet Crime Forum. Indeed, she cites putting the CPS on the map in the field of high tech crime training as an achievement during her time as a Senior Policy Advisor.

Shortly before leaving her post at the Policy Directorate of the CPS in London, Baljit shaped the national CPS response towards tackling anti social behaviour, including securing funding for 12 experts nationally to address this category of offences.

Enthusiastic about her new role, Baljit said:

"I am delighted about taking up this post in a large, busy area with such diverse communities and geography. My priority is to see Thames Valley area deliver a fair and robust prosecution service to the public and to see a higher quality service for victims and witnesses.

"I have been impressed by the commitment and dedication of staff across the Area and am confident that together we can achieve this objective.

"I am keen to understand the issues of concern for the people within Thames Valley, therefore I will spend time building partnerships with groups and individuals who represent the communities in the Area.

"I will also be building strong partnerships with the police and the courts so that we can provide an excellent standard of service to the public across the criminal justice system in Thames Valley."