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Police: Bureaucracy

Volume 486: debated on Tuesday 13 January 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment has been carried out of the effect on the amount of police paperwork of moving responsibility for charging decisions from police forces to the Crown Prosecution Service under the statutory charging initiative. (241859)

Although no specific assessment has been carried out on its impact on police paperwork, a full independent evaluation of the pilot exercise identified a number of significant benefits of statutory charging for the criminal justice system at large, including the police service.

One of the main benefits of the scheme is the early dialogue between a police officer and a duty prosecutor. This consultation enables those cases that are evidentially weak, which can not be strengthened to meet the Code for Crown prosecutors, to be stopped there and then. Under previous arrangements these cases would have entered the court system. A costly and often ineffective exchange of correspondence between the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and police would follow in an attempt to obtain evidence to support the individual case. A high percentage of these cases were then discontinued later in the process, often after several court appearances and after the police had expended additional and unnecessary effort in trying to obtain evidence.

A further benefit has been the improved relationships between police and CPS from close partnership working that has enabled them to better manage other linked initiatives including the Criminal Justice Simple, Speedy Summary (CJSSS) and the Streamlined Process that have improved case management and reduced delay in the courts.

There are several other benefits to the police. Dialogue with a Duty Prosecutor enables borderline and more complex cases to be strengthened, and police officers can be directed at that point to supply only what is really required in terms of the evidence needed to support the case. The original business case for statutory charging also points to further benefits for the police through the potential to enhance the police skills base in dealing with evidential issues as a result of early dialogue with the CPS. The business case predicted that around 238,000 cases per annum would be charged by the CPS and a further 20,000 would be stopped at the point of charge. The benefits to the police in the original business case for statutory charging were estimated to be £6.5 million based on this prediction of caseload.

In practice the benefits to the police are far greater than this. With 550,000 cases now being considered by the CPS each year, the number of cases that are stopped at the point of charge which fail to meet the code test was 160,000 during 2007-08 which provides substantially more benefit to the police than was originally estimated in the business case.

The Government take all aspects of police bureaucracy very seriously and we continue to keep the implications of the charging process, in respect of the amount of paperwork involved, under close review.

I have now appointed Jan Berry as our national independent advocate for achieving reductions in police bureaucracy. I have asked her to identify and examine a number of key policing processes and to make recommendations on how these could be reformed to reduce the amount of paperwork generated for officers. The impact of statutory charging on police paperwork is within the scope of Jan Berry's work.