Skip to main content

Errors in Law (Costs)

Volume 590: debated on Tuesday 6 January 2015

7. What recent assessment he has made of the cost to the public purse of errors in law made by the Crown Prosecution Service when bringing forward prosecutions. (906840)

There are a number of safeguards, both in the CPS and in the criminal justice system, to minimise the impact of errors in law. They include the CPS casework quality standards, judicial oversight, and the appeal process itself. There is no central record of the overall cost to the public purse when such errors of law occur, but whenever errors are identified, the CPS works to address them.

May I encourage the Solicitor-General to try to calculate the cost? Obviously, we should like to know what impact staff cuts in the CPS might have on the costs of cases, and, in particular, how they might affect the ability of the CPS to prepare and present cases. In that spirit, will the Solicitor-General undertake to try to identify the cost and let the House know what it is?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the spirit in which he asked his question. I can tell him that the total value of cost awards against the CPS was only 0.2% of its budget, and that, within that percentage, identifying specific errors of law was going to be very difficult. However, I can assure him that only 142 appeals against conviction were allowed last year, and that very few of those will have involved an error of law on the part of a CPS lawyer. An error might well have been made by the trial judge, or might have been made at some other point in the system, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the number of errors of law committed purely by CPS lawyers is very small indeed.