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Prolific Offenders

Volume 448: debated on Thursday 29 June 2006

20. if he will make a statement on the recent performance of the Crown Prosecution Service in Northamptonshire in prosecuting persistent and prolific offenders. (80901)

In 2005-06, the CPS in Northamptonshire secured the conviction of 92 persistent and prolific offenders, which equates to a conviction rate of 78 per cent.

Northamptonshire CPS should be praised for doing its best successfully to prosecute repeat offenders. Is the Solicitor-General as concerned as me that while the CPS is prioritising persistent and prolific offenders, the courts are not giving those offenders the exemplary sentences that the public expect?

The courts must decide the appropriate sentence, and probation reports inform them about the backgrounds of particular offenders. We look to them to use the powers that they have been given in order to ensure that persistent and prolific offenders are dealt with properly and appropriately and that effective sentences are given.

Will my hon. and learned Friend bear in mind the fact that there has been criticism in Northamptonshire and other areas of the quality of staff performance by the CPS in court? Many of those staff are relatively inarticulate and some do not even have a decent command of the English language. There has been criticism from the magistracy of the quality that they see in their courts.

Some of my hon. Friend’s criticism is not justified. I have no doubt that there are examples of poor advocates, but the CPS is developing higher court advocates who undergo special training and appear in higher courts as prosecutors. That shows the improved quality of advocacy among CPS lawyers, and we want to ensure that that improvement continues. The Director of Public Prosecutions, the Attorney-General and I want to ensure that the CPS is completely fit for purpose.