YORK and North Yorkshire are to lose their separate prosecution service.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has confirmed it is to leave York, where it presently shares the purpose-built Athena House offices in Clifton Moor with North Yorkshire Police.
Instead prosecution lawyers based in Leeds will handle casework from West and North Yorkshire as the CPS bids to save £250,000 a year.
Its departure could land North Yorkshire Police with a bill of £210,000 in extra rent and phone charges from November 2014. The CPS will leave on March 8, at a cost of £187,360.
The move has raised new fears that justice will suffer because staff dealing with North Yorkshire cases will lack local knowledge and expertise, and will spend hours a day on the road travelling to and from court instead of working with files or prosecuting in court.
But the CPS said its purpose was to continue to deliver justice as efficiently and effectively as possible.
York Central MP Hugh Bayley called on the CPS to allow a “thoroughly independent” review in a year’s time of its decision to pull most of its staff out of York and to bring them back to the city if the review shows it has had a negative effect on justice.
He said: “I think we will get a less joined-up service between prosecution and the police.
“The public want to be sure prosecution decisions are taken with a North Yorkshire set of priorities in mind rather than a West Yorkshire set of priorities in mind.
“Secondly, we want to be sure cases come before the courts as quickly and as well prepared under the new regime as before.”
Barbara Petchey, deputy chief crown prosecutor for CPS North and West Yorkshire, said: “We remain completely committed to providing a quality prosecution service as well as maintaining close working relationships with our partners in the criminal justice system. This commitment is unaffected by the relocation to Leeds.”
She said the decision to leave Athena House was not taken lightly and because of its limited resources, the most efficient way to do this was a larger, centralised team which would provide “resilience”.
The CPS offices will close from Friday March 8, when 40 will staff move to Leeds. Seventeen staff who live furthest from Leeds will move initially to United House in Piccadilly, York.
North Yorkshire Police will continue to occupy Athena House for the time being and the CPS will pay its part of the rent until November 2014.