Friday, April 29, 2011

Learned friends keep mum about DPP job as critics advocate change

Geesche Jacobsen | SMH | April 29, 2011
THE office of the Director of Public Prosecutions needs a shake-up, some senior Sydney lawyers said, as applications for the office's top job were about to close.
One lawyer described the office as a ''sheltered workshop''; another said ''it would be a challenge to improve the standard of the place''.
Some potential candidates appear to have been put off by the terms and conditions of the $368,550 job, the perceived amount of administration, or the task of reforming the office.
Despite a handful of candidates rumoured to be applying, no firm favourite has emerged and the government has engaged consultants to canvass candidates nationwide.
Applications close today, and the Attorney-General's Department will draw up a shortlist, from which the Attorney-General, Greg Smith, will select a candidate to propose to the cabinet. This can be vetoed by a parliamentary committee.
Two early favourites whose names had been doing the rounds of legal circles for months - the senior crown prosecutor Mark Tedeschi, QC, and the District Court judge Martin Blackmore - are now understood not to be applying.
The successful candidate is likely to be a silk with extensive criminal experience.
The previous DPP, Nicholas Cowdery, resigned in March after nearly 17 years, and Ian Temby, QC, is acting in the position until mid-May.
After changes to the law the next DPP can serve only one 10-year term, which might suit someone near the end of their career.
Senior lawyers say the office needs to be reformed. One said many prosecutors were ''precious'' and refused to work outside of the city.
Another lamented that many of the staff ''haven't had much experience in life'' and were ''zealots''.
One senior barrister suggested more cases should be contracted out to the private bar to allow prosecutors to be assigned to a case and follow it through, preventing changes in the indictments just before a trial.
Staff inside the office are understood to be anxious about the pending appointment, and senior current and former prosecutors were lobbied at the recent prosecutors' conferences to apply for the job.
Among the names circulating as potential candidates are the crown prosecutor Margaret Cunneen, SC, who had not decided yesterday if she would apply, and her colleague Chris Maxwell, QC.
The current Commonwealth DPP, Chris Craigie, SC, and former South Australian deputy DPP, Wendy Abraham, QC, were also named as potential candidates along with crown advocate Lloyd Babb, SC, and Mark Ierace, SC. Mr Babb did not wish to comment and Ms Abraham did not take the Herald's call. Mr Craigie said his current role was ''fulfilling''.
The position is believed to be less attractive for senior private barristers who would take a pay cut to accept it.
Two experienced barristers, John Agius, SC, and Peter Hastings, QC, were rumoured to be interested, but neither would comment on the suggestions yesterday.

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