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CPS/Police Co-ordination

Volume 524: debated on Tuesday 1 March 2011

6. What steps he is taking to ensure better co-ordination between the Crown Prosecution Service and police forces. (42457)

The Crown Prosecution Service and the police have a close working relationship. They are working together on returning the charging of some offences to the police, eradicating duplicated work and improving communications, making greater use of information technology through the service and delivery of electronic case files and providing a better service to victims and witnesses.

In 2010, more than a fifth of abandoned prosecutions were because of the CPS’s failure to review cases before they came to trial, which was extremely upsetting for the victims concerned. What steps can my hon. and learned Friend take to make sure that the police and the CPS work together more collaboratively and share information so that this does not happen so much in future?

I commend my hon. Friend on his close interest, both within his county and nationally, in matters of this sort. Police charging of some offences will clearly help to cut time-wasting, as will doing away with the unnecessary duplication of case file preparation and the better use of IT. The police and the CPS need to co-operate and work together from a very early stage so that the gathering and assessment of evidence can be effectively and efficiently directed towards achieving justice.

Will the Minister advise the House what contact his Department has had with the Attorney-General for Northern Ireland, the public prosecutor, the Police Service for Northern Ireland and our Justice Minister to ensure that cases in our courts are processed expeditiously and that there is not a two-gear system in which cases in Northern Ireland progress considerably more slowly than in the rest of the United Kingdom?

My right hon. and learned Friend and I meet and speak to the Attorney-General for Northern Ireland from time to time, but the hon. Gentleman will understand that the justice system in Northern Ireland is devolved to Northern Ireland and that it would not be right for us to interfere in its day-to-day work.

My hon. and learned Friend will be aware that one problem faced by the CPS is that there often is not sufficient time for those who have the charge of cases to review them, partly because they have to spend so much time on administration. What steps is he taking to ensure that changes?

I am not sure that the picture my hon. and learned Friend paints is of general application, although I am sure it is true in some cases. Certainly, the Attorney-General’s office and the senior management of the CPS, from the Director of Public Prosecutions downwards, are determined to ensure that we have a system of prosecution that is not only just but efficient and effective.

How can the CPS and the police work together better to persuade courts not to give bail to persistent and prolific offenders? Nothing annoys the police more than regular offenders appearing before a court only to be released to commit offences while on bail.

I understand the point of frustration that my hon. Friend raises. The Law Officers are not here to direct judges on what to do in any given case, but the CPS and the police need to co-operate to make sure that relevant evidence is put before the court so that it can make a decision based on its application of the facts to the law and the sort of cases to which my hon. Friend refers happen on fewer occasions.