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Arrest Warrants (Private Prosecutions)

Volume 521: debated on Tuesday 18 January 2011

5. What estimate he has made of the likely funding required by the Crown Prosecution Service to implement proposals to restrict arrest warrants in private prosecutions. (33911)

The Crown Prosecution Service continues to assess the costs of implementing the proposals to restrict arrest warrants in private prosecutions. The service currently expects any additional costs to be absorbed in current resources. I should point out that such private prosecutions relate solely to cases involving international jurisdiction.

What guidelines are likely to be set in relation to the time that the Director of Public Prosecutions is given in which to respond to private arrest warrant applications, and will those guidelines take into account late notification of arrivals?

By its very nature, the system that is likely to operate when such references are made to the DPP will involve extremely short time frames. The point has been well made in the House that it is much better to go to the police and make a complaint, because the police can arrest, interview, search and conduct forensic examinations. If an application is made through a private prosecution or through the DPP, all that is possible is for a person to be taken immediately to court. I have no doubt that the DPP will ensure that he can operate within a time frame that reflects the urgency of the matter concerned.

I welcome the fact that Ministers are dealing with the matter, and that they are doing so by using the DPP rather than the Attorney-General as the person to whom reference can be made. Will this be covered in any way by the superintendence responsibilities of the Attorney-General, or will it be clear that the DPP has an independent role in the matter?

The decision will be that of the Director of Public Prosecutions. As in all matters, if the DPP wishes to consult the law officers in relation to their superintendence, it will be open to him to do so.

Does the Attorney-General not agree that the reputation of the country would be better served if the current system whereby private individuals can seek prosecutions in the courts, or seek arrest warrants in the courts for crimes against humanity or war crimes, were preserved rather than taken away and handed over to public officials?

I think that the reputation of the country will be best preserved through proper and targeted work by the police and prosecutors to bring to justice those who have a case to answer. The reputation of the country will not be served if the use of private prosecutions is seen merely as a tool of harassment, and there is no proper outcome from an arrest.