Mathews' review of prosecutions comes in for attack

BAR Association chairman Gladys Li last night criticised the terms of reference applied by Attorney-General Jeremy Mathews to a legal group ordered to review the work of his prosecutions division.

Ms Li said the review would be useless if it did not focus on the division assigning work to outside counsel.

She said the review, chaired by Director of Public Prosecutions Peter Nguyen, should consider reducing the division to a level where it played only an 'advisory and instructing function'.

Mr Mathews' announcement of the expert group followed a motion for such a move by legislator Elsie Tu last week which received widespread support.

Her call followed a series of scandals in the Legal Department, including the $17.1 million payout to barrister Graham Grant who left the department in the middle of handling the controversial Bumiputra Malaysia Finance case only to have it briefed out to him when he entered private practice.

Ms Li believed that the terms of reference were not specific enough.

In addition to Mr Nguyen, the group includes retired High Court judge Eric Barnes, Jardine Pacific director Eleanor Ling, former urban councillor and barrister Arjan Sakhrani and the ICAC's Director of Corruption Prevention, Tony Scott.

The review is to look at: Minimising legal-technical errors; Ensuring consistency of advice and policy; Ensuring that proper checks and balances are in place; and Maximising transparency and accountability.

Mr Mathews said the group's report should be ready for legislators by December.

Ms Li said large numbers of Crown Counsel were unnecessary and a costly burden.