The two key priorities of the Crown Prosecution Service over the spending review period are quality and efficiency. The CPS strategy is to protect front-line delivery. Savings were sought in the first instance from back-office functions. Savings made from the front line will be achieved through greater productivity and by maximising the gains from improved criminal justice system efficiency and better use of technology.
Under the POD system operating in the Crown courts, only the most serious cases are now allocated to an individual dedicated prosecutor. Can the Solicitor-General tell the House how many cases under that system have been dropped or delayed because evidence was not prepared in time?
No, I cannot, because the CPS deals with hundreds of thousands of cases every year. The POD system is actually in the CPS’s offices, not the Crown courts, but I take the hon. Gentleman’s point. The point of the POD system is to enable more people to have ownership of cases so that they are dealt with more efficiently.
Under the Labour Government the CPS made great progress in prosecuting domestic violence, thanks in large part to the domestic violence training given to prosecutors and the use of dedicated domestic violence prosecutors. Does the Solicitor-General agree that the cuts to the CPS have placed a huge pressure on prosecutors, with the result that dedicated domestic violence prosecutors are now too overloaded with other work to give domestic violence cases the attention they need and deserve?
I agree that the previous Government were particularly adept in dealing with domestic violence policy, and it is an area that my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General and I have taken up with alacrity. I have appeared in the Court of Appeal to deal with unduly lenient sentences relating to violence against women, particularly sexual assaults. I broadly agree with her, but I do not accept that the system is under any strain in the prosecution of domestic violence cases. There are some really dedicated and hard-working lawyers and administrative staff in the CPS working to ensure that women are safe in their homes.
We will endeavour to ensure that all appropriate orders and sentences are applied for and handed out. I am clearly not going to give a running commentary from the Dispatch Box on any particular case, but I agree with my hon. Friend’s broad point.