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Thursday, 01 November 2018

New CPS chief pledges to 'build public trust' in criminal justice system

Written by Thomas Hornall

High-ranking barrister Max Hill QC has pledged to build public trust in the criminal justice system as he takes over from Alison Saunders as Director of Public Prosecutions on Thursday.

The former terrorism watchdog takes charge of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) after months in which it has been heavily criticised for a catalogue of disclosure failings that led to cases collapsing.

His predecessor Ms Saunders announced she was quitting the post in April, rejecting criticisms of her five-year stint and describing claims that standards had slipped as "hugely insulting" to prosecutors.

Mr Hill (pictured), who was called to the bar in 1987, successfully prosecuted the failed 21/7 bombers and appeared in the inquest into the 7/7 attacks, as well as acting in fraud, corporate crime and serious violence cases.

He said: "I am in no doubt this is a challenging time for the CPS. The crime landscape is changing, which is creating an increasingly complex caseload.

"I have seen first-hand the sterling work carried out by CPS staff and I am determined to build public trust in our work.

"I am grateful to Alison Saunders for her service and look forward to building on her legacy in the coming years."

Confidence in the criminal justice system was rocked after a flurry of cases collapsed when it emerged vital evidence had not been passed to defence lawyers.

The collapsed trial of rape-accused Liam Allan raised the profile of a string of similar sex cases, where charges were dropped when critical material emerged at the last minute.

The revelations prompted a review of every live rape and serious sexual assault prosecution in England and Wales, which found issues with the disclosure of unused material in 47 cases.

A Justice Committee report earlier this year concluded the CPS may have underestimated the number of cases stopped because of disclosure errors by 90%.

Chairman Bob Neill MP said it was unacceptable that correct disclosure of evidence was "too often regarded as just an administrative headache".

He added: "The failings are symptomatic of a system under immense strain: without change, we cannot expect the public to have confidence in the criminal justice system."

Mr Hill is originally from Hertfordshire and was appointed Queen's Counsel in 2008

The Oxford graduate has appeared on Channel 4's The Trial, in which real juries, barristers and judges tried a fictional murder case to see how the jury system works.

He had been the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation since March 2017.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Crown Prosecution Service / PA Wire.