SUBSTANTIAL provision of cases to private counsel because of a shortage of government prosecutors cost taxpayers an extra $8 million. It was revealed that in 1992, a total of 5,485 court days were briefed out by the Legal Department, representing 44 per cent of all court days that year. This was because of a serious understaffing of court prosecutors in the department, with all new staff having to undergo nine months' full-time training before they are allowed to conduct prosecutions independently in magistrate's courts. At the same time, the turnover of staff was high because of poor career prospects. The post is comparatively lower than other civil service grades with similar appointment qualifications. At present, the Court Prosecutor grade, with 104 staff, is made up of only three ranks - Court Prosecutor, Senior Court Prosecutor (Grade 2) and Senior Court Prosecutor (Grade 1). They are responsible for public prosecutions in nine out of 10 magistracies. The report also said the amount of time the front-line court prosecutors spent in courts was small - only 32 per cent of working hours in magistrates courts, compared with 42 per cent for police prosecutors. The Director of Audit suggested the Attorney-General increase the court hours of front-line court prosecutors, though the Attorney-General explained that time should be given for them to prepare their cases adequately before going to court. Mr Jenney urged the department to review whether any additional posts should be created to improve problems caused by staff training. He also recommended re-structuring the Court Prosecutor grade to provide better career prospects. The proposal was accepted by the Legal Department chief.