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Prosecution Policy

Volume 460: debated on Thursday 24 May 2007

21. What assessment he has made of consistency of prosecution policy between the Army Prosecuting Authority and the Crown Prosecution Service. (138946)

Both the CPS and the armed service prosecutors will apply the same evidential test—namely, whether there is enough evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction—and then decide whether there is a public interest in prosecuting. In the case of the armed service prosecutors, that includes the service interest.

The Army Prosecuting Authority dropped a case against British soldiers, despite lots of evidence having been on worldwide TV, saying that it had happened more than six months before. It claimed in its press release that the same applied to the civil authorities. Can the Solicitor-General confirm that if a thug beats someone up and lies low for six months, he will not be prosecuted despite the evidence? Is that the law, or has the Army Prosecuting Authority got it wrong?

The Army Prosecuting Authority has to look at the evidence before it and decide whether a prosecution is able to take place with witnesses who can give effective evidence to secure that prosecution. If the evidential test is not passed, the prosecutors will not take the case forward; if it is passed, they can take it forward. They will then have to consider public interest issues. My hon. Friend appears to be talking about the evidential test. I am happy to discuss the issues with him further, but it seems from what he says that the evidential test was not passed.