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Terror watchdog to take over as head of troubled Crown Prosecution Service

Max Hill QC will replace Alison Saunders as the new Director of Public Prosecutions from November, the Attorney General has announced.

Terrorism watchdog Max Hill QC has pledged to “restore public trust in the Crown Prosecution Service” after being announced as the new Director of Public Prosecutions.

Mr Hill will replace Alison Saunders in the senior legal role from November, after months in which the CPS has been heavily criticised for a catalogue of disclosure failings that led to cases collapsing and warnings about miscarriages of justice.

Mr Hill, who has been the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation since March 2017, was announced in the new role by Attorney General Geoffrey Cox on Tuesday.

Mr Hill said he was “honoured” to be taking over from Ms Saunders, adding: “This is a challenging time for the CPS, with the rise in complex cases and negative publicity about its handling of disclosure in some cases.

“I have seen first-hand the sterling work of the CPS and I am determined to restore public trust in all of its work.”

The independent reviewer scrutinises the operation of the UK’s laws on terrorism and produces reports. It is a part-time role.

Mr Hill is a high-ranking barrister who 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.

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

The collapsed rape trial of 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.

Last week MPs criticised Ms Saunders over long-term failings that saw vital evidence withheld from defence lawyers in rape and serious sexual assault cases.

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Alison Saunders came under pressure over disclosure failures by the CPS (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The Justice Committee said “insufficient focus and leadership” led to problems going unresolved and that the DPP “did not sufficiently recognise the extent and seriousness” of failures within the disclosure process.

A report published on Friday also concluded the CPS may have underestimated the number of cases stopped because of disclosure errors by 90%.

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

Daniel Janner QC, the son of the late Lord Greville Janner and a sharp critic of Ms Saunders, said Mr Hill would be an “excellent” DPP.

Mr Janner had clashed with the outgoing CPS chief over the decision to prosecute his Labour peer father over child abuse allegations.

The CPS said there was enough evidence to merit prosecution but that it was not in the public interest to proceed – a decision which was overturned, only for the elderly former MP to be found unfit to stand trial shortly before his death in 2015.

Mr Janner said: “He (Mr Hill) is much needed to turn around the CPS after the disaster of Alison Saunders.

“The disclosure failings shambles has undermined confidence in the criminal justice system.”

Downing Street said the Prime Minister backed the appointment of “a distinguished and experienced Queen’s Counsel who has demonstrated a very strong commitment to public service and to the justice system”.

Mr Cox said: “Mr Hill is a distinguished and extremely experienced Queen’s Counsel who has demonstrated a profound commitment both to the criminal justice system and to public service. I am very grateful to him for taking on these onerous responsibilities.

“I am confident that he will be a good and collaborative leader of the Crown Prosecution Service and a principled and strongly independent chief prosecutor. The public will rightly expect nothing less.

“He will now build on the achievements of Alison Saunders, to whom I am grateful for her 32 years of public service.

“The role of DPP is difficult and requires exceptional qualities of judgment and character. I am looking forward to working with the new director.”

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