It was almost a year ago that the New South Wales Director of Public Prosecutions, Nicholas Cowdery QC, earned the ire of the State Labor Government by telling the annual conference of the NSW Teachers Federation why sending more people to prison would not in itself do a great deal to solve the crime problem.

That was not what a new Premier and his henchmen wanted to hear when they were trying to strengthen their re-election chances by showing how tough they were on law and order.

Premier Morris Iemma particularly disliked the opportunity the speech gave NSW Liberal shadow attorney-general, Chris Hartcher, to declare that “under a Debnam Liberal government, you can be assured things will be different” to the “whole range of weak attitudes to the prosecution of criminals in this state” that Mr Cowdery had presided over.

The words of Mr Hartcher and the absence of any defence by the government of the top criminal prosecutor were a wonderful confirmation of Mr Cowdery’s comment that “politicians jump on the fear of crime”.

The passage of time and a clear election victory have not diminished the Labor Government’s resentment of this statutory public servant who is virtually impossible to dismiss.

This morning they have begun seeking revenge with the aid of the Sydney Daily Telegraph by painting Mr Cowdery as being soft on child s-xual assault cases while rorting the public purse with his own travel plans. It really is an extraordinary attack with Treasurer Michael Costa as principal attack dog.

The excuse for this nasty exercise in character assassination appears to be advice Mr Cowdery has given the Government that planned budget cuts would result in the office of the DPP being unable to handle all of its current case load. One planned saving was to have the police rather than the DPP handle summary (that is, relatively minor) s-xual assault cases.

Treasurer Costa has feigned shock and horror at this suggestion coming from a man who, as part of his conditions of employment, gets a couple of trips a year to international legal conferences.

“I am deeply concerned about the suggested level of overseas travel given the Office’s proposed cuts to frontline services,” The Tele quotes Mr Costa as saying.

There was no comment recorded about the salary of the DPP being but a fraction of what he would earn at the bar if not in government service.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey