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Crown Prosecution Service

Volume 542: debated on Tuesday 20 March 2012

The Crown Prosecution Service operates a robust performance management framework with 10 key performance measures. They address case work outcomes, together with performance relating to finance, efficiency and people. Over the past 12 months, performance has improved according to nine measures and declined according to two.

Only one in 10 rapes are reported to the police, and only one in 15 of those reports lead to a conviction. How does the Attorney-General expect a 25% cut in resources for the CPS to increase the number of cases reported, or indeed the number of convictions?

I understand the hon. Gentleman’s question, but as I have told the House on numerous occasions, domestic violence and rape matters have remained a top priority for the CPS, and at present I have no reason to believe that the result of any changes in its funding will alter its ability to prosecute people successfully for such offences. If there are instances that the hon. Gentleman wishes to bring to my attention, I shall of course be happy to meet him.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend as concerned as I am about the conclusion of the inspectorate’s report that there is too large a pool of Crown advocates, that they are often under-prepared and that work is poorly allocated, which leads to cracked trials and unchallenged evidence?

Yes, I share the right hon. Gentleman’s concern. When we first came to office I devoted some attention to the issue, and particularly to the balance between work done by Crown advocates within the service and that done by the independent Bar. As the right hon. Gentleman will know, there have been some changes in the way in which that work is allocated, and I hope very much that the quality of both the work done by the independent Bar and that done in-house will improve as a result. The Director of Public Prosecutions takes this matter very seriously.

On 6 April it will be four years since the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 came into force, but although between 250 and 300 people die at work each year—deaths which, according to the Health and Safety Executive, are usually avoidable—only two companies have ever been prosecuted under the Act. Does the Attorney-General know what is wrong, and if not, will he conduct urgent inquiries and make a statement to the House as soon as possible?

I shall be extremely happy to go away and seek the detailed views of the Director of Public Prosecutions, and to write to the hon. Lady and place the letter in the Library. I have discussed the matter with the DPP on occasion, particularly in view of my background as a health and safety practitioner.

Corporate manslaughter is the most serious offence for which people can be prosecuted, but prosecutions can sometimes be brought to cover similar sorts of offence within the health and safety laws. I know of no evidence to suggest that the Crown Prosecution Service is not correctly applying its approach to deciding when a prosecution for corporate manslaughter is appropriate, but in order to reassure the hon. Lady in response to what was a very sensible and pertinent question, I will endeavour to provide her with the information.