CPS staff ‘sent race hate-mail to lawyer’

Author: By Robert Verkaik, Legal Affairs Correspondent

Detectives are investigating allegations that a senior Asian lawyer, who helped to expose racism in the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), is himself the victim of a race-hate campaign conducted from inside the service.

West Midlands Police have interviewed CPS staff in Wolverhampton following a complaint made by Crown prosecutor Ravinder Johal, 41, that he had received abusive letters. The two letters, purporting to come from police officers, criticised Mr Johal’s work and told him he was not welcome in his local police station. Detectives are also investigating malicious telephone calls made to Mr Johal’s home.

In a statement issued yesterday, West Midlands Police said they had found no evidence to link the letters to any of their officers and had now turned the investigation on the Crown Prosecution Service.

A police spokeswoman for the force said that what had first been a matter for its own complaints department was now being treated as a criminal investigation.

In a separate move, the CPS has also conducted its own inquiry relating to other complaints made by Mr Johal under its “equal opportunities procedures” and is considering disciplinary action against three members of staff. The CPS confirmed that there was a racial element to the inquiry which centred on allegations of bullying and victimisation.

A spokesman for the service said: “The CPS takes allegations of harassment among staff very seriously… The CPS has also asked West Midlands Police to investigate the anonymous letters addressed to Mr Johal. We understand that the police investigation is on-going.”

The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) confirmed that it, too, was considering a complaint made by a member of staff from the Wolverhampton office believed to be Mr Johal.

Mr Johal, who has been employed by the CPS for nine years, also sits on the advisory committee to an independent inquiry which last month found evidence of institutional racism in the service.

The report, published by Sylvia Denman CBE, concluded that race discrimination and institutional racism have “operated to the disadvantage of black and Asian staff”.

The findings follow a series of successful race discrimination cases taken against the CPS and a decision by the service to launch its own formal investigation into the treatment of its staff.

In January, the commission agreed to suspend this inquiry on condition that the Director of Public Prosecutions, David Calvert-Smith QC, took steps to address race problems in his organisation.

But news that the police are conducting a live investigation into claims relating to racial harassment will put pressure on the CRE to complete its own inspection, making the service only the third organisation to be subjected to a formal investigation by the CRE. It has carried out similar investigations into the Army and the Civil Service.

A CRE spokeswoman said the commission would be meeting Ms Denman and representatives from the CPS this month, when it would decide whether to relaunch its formal investigation.

Peter Herbert, chairman of the Society for Black Lawyers, which is supporting Mr Johal, said that he deserved to have all the allegations fully investigated. But Mr Herbert added: “They [the CPS] have shown a singular lack of understanding and commitment to race quality in recent years.”

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