A damning report into the 'poor' performance of public prosecutors in Hammersmith and Fulham has revealed the borough to have one of the worst conviction rates in London.
Just 83 per cent of cases brought to magistrates' court had a successful outcome last year, compared to an 86 per cent average across the capital and 87 per cent nationally.
More serious cases brought to the crown court result in a slightly higher conviction rate – 74 per cent - than the city's 73 per cent average, but inspectors found a litany of problems preventing more of those cases from being progressed.
The report, released this week by HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate, rated Hammersmith and Fulham's performance as 'poor' overall and in six of the ten key areas, with the borough sharing the joint worst score with Lewisham, Brent and Enfield.
Part of the problem was put down to a lack of consistent leadership at the borough's CPS unit, which has been led by seven different borough crown prosecutors since it split from Kensington and Chelsea last March.
The report said: "In crown court casework, files are not prepared and progressed to the standard that it is reasonable to expect; papers arrive late from the police and lawyers have competing priorities between crown court and magistrates' court casework.
"The case progression difficulties have permeated all aspects of casework including the treatment of victims and witnesses, the undertaking of the duties of disclosure of unused material to the defence and the handling of custody time limits."
The inspectors found that the continual turnover of crown prosecutors meant the borough had 'struggled to have any sense of stability', despite barristers who do their best to 'fire-fight' in court and 'committed professional staff' who show 'considerable goodwill' in demoralising circumstances.
The borough's current crown prosecutor, David Cawthorne, said the unit is urgently working to improve case preparation and progression to result in more successful prosecutions, and that a London-wide review of resources is under way to make sure there are enough staff to handle the high volume of cases.
He said: "We have just moved into Hammersmith police station and I am confident that this new way of working will lead to a stronger working relationship with the police, better case management and, hopefully, an increase in the number of successful outcomes.
"There have been challenging times for the CPS in Hammersmith and Fulham but I am hopeful that this report will signal the way forward. The inspectorate's findings make clear what aspects of our work need to be improved.
"My team and I are dedicated to prosecuting thoroughly crimes committed in Hammersmith and Fulham, ensuring that offenders are brought to justice and that the people of the borough have confidence in their Crown Prosecution Service."