LEGAL Department lawyers who leave the Government for the richer pickings of the private sector will no longer be able to take cases with them. In the past some counsel have been paid more for doing the same work after they left the department, sometimes many times more than their government salary. The Director of Public Prosecutions, Peter Nguyen, said yesterday a new policy was to be implemented from January 1 that no work would be given to any counsel who leaves, for six months. The policy, which has been agreed by the Attorney-General, Jeremy Mathews, is at least partly the result of the public outcry over revelations that one counsel, Graham Grant, took the massive Bumiputra Malaysia Finance Limited (BMFL) case with him and has earned more than $17 million of taxpayers' money since leaving in 1991. But Mr Nguyen said the policy was not inflexible, and in exceptional circumstances, it could be varied with the approval of the Attorney-General. He agreed that Mr Grant's case may well have fallen into that category, as the BMFL case was extremely complex and Mr Grant had been working on it since the prosecution started in 1985. 'The Grant case has brought things to a head, and because of the interest shown by the public, we feel we must now have a clear policy in writing which has to be adhered to in future. 'This policy is a manifestation of the fact we don't favour our ex-colleagues, as some have alleged, when allocating prosecution work to the private sector,' he said. He said work was allocated on a rotational and availability basis and, in future, records would be kept of who was approached for work but was unavailable, to prove in case of complaints that there was no favouritism. The chairman of the Legislative Council's Panel on Administration of Justice and Legal Services, Simon Ip Sik-on, said he supported the idea of the policy but questioned whether the six-month restriction was long enough. 'It is, of course, a good policy, but the question now is whether six months is enough or not,' Mr Ip said, adding that he would put the question to the Attorney-General when he appeared before the Legislative Council panel on January 5. Mr Ip said, however, that the policy would help change public perception that expatriate counsel, who were being asked to leave the department as part of its localisation policy, were being promised prime cases after they quit. He said the policy announced by Mr Nguyen was made in anticipation of the January panel meeting, where the Legal Department has been called to present a written report to legislators documenting how many instances there had been of cases being briefed to former counsel, and what was to be done to change briefing-out procedures. Law Society secretary Patrick Moss said the society would not comment until it saw the full plan. But another member said the response was a reaction to pressure. 'They [the Government] had to do something before the Legislative Council panel discussed it. 'The crucial thing is that they get the right person to do [the cases],' he said. Bar Association Council member Barry Sceats said last night that having a written policy was desirable and the six-month gap was a way of dealing with the problem. 'If people are going into private practice, to continue with their previous work but on different terms would seem inconsistent with that,' he said. And 'a six-month cooling-off period would be consistent with the Government's broader policy on people leaving to go into private practice,' he said.