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CPS: London North

Volume 715: debated on Thursday 26 May 2022

Before I answer my hon. Friend, I inform the House that my friend and close partner, the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, is in the Gallery. It gives me great pleasure to welcome her to London to watch Attorney General questions this morning. I recently visited Ukraine to witness first hand the indomitable and inspiring work that she is leading in Ukraine to bring to justice those Russian soldiers suspected of war crimes. The UK is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with our friends in Ukraine. Slava Ukraini.

The Government are, of course, committed to holding the criminal justice system to account for its performance, which is why we are now publishing criminal justice scorecards that focus on regional performance, which make a crucial contribution to our understanding of how the system is working. CPS London prosecuted nearly 39,000 cases in 2021, with almost 29,000—74%—ending in a conviction. That is a 15.2% increase from 2020. The inspectorate recently completed an inspection of CPS London North and I am pleased to report that it found commendable improvements in the prosecution of rape and serious sexual offences.

I associate myself with the Attorney General’s remarks to our friends from Ukraine.

Clearly, one of the most important aspects of CPS performance is how it deals with witnesses and victims, particularly of violent crimes. Can she update the House on how CPS London North has performed against those criteria?

I was pleased that the inspectorate report that looked specifically at performance in CPS London North found that 81.3% of responses to witnesses fully met the standard for being timely and effective. There is always more we can do and I know that the CPS is committed to improving the quality of its communication with victims. I would say, however, that CPS London North was also successful in securing convictions very recently for serious offences and we should record our thanks and gratitude to its team of prosecutors.

I am a co-chair of the all-party group on miscarriages of justice, and we are all conscious that we want the Crown Prosecution Service to be as good as it possibly can be. However, up and down the country—in London and elsewhere—there are serious worries about recruitment and the performance of many members of staff. Could there be a thorough look at the performance of the CPS at the moment?

I regularly visit CPS teams around the country, and there is a huge amount of dedication and commitment to improving performance. No one is under any illusion about the scale of improvement needed. However, we are seeing huge measures, with investment and resources being ploughed into the system nationwide—whether that is Operation Soteria, or the pilots in the south-east and in Avon and Somerset. All around the country, we are seeing better practices, focusing on closer collaboration between the police and the prosecutor, earlier investigative advice and more support for victims. We now have some changes to the disclosure guidelines, which are going to focus on supporting victims. I think that, cumulatively, we are going to see improvements and the early data gives me grounds for optimism.