The strategic objectives of the Crown Prosecution Service are always reviewed in my meetings with the Director of Public Prosecutions. I am pleased to see that progress has been made by the CPS in many areas in fulfilling those objectives.
May I take this opportunity to welcome the new and incoming Director of Public Prosecutions, Max Hill? He is a very experienced member of the Bar—a man who has prosecuted successfully in many cases—and I am expecting that he will lead the service to new strengths. At the same time, may I put on the record today the gratitude that I feel and the public should feel to Alison Saunders, the outgoing director? She has been a decent and honourable public servant. She has served the CPS for 30 years, including five years as its leader. She has left the CPS in a condition where, in many areas, she has achieved notable success. I wish her well, and I hope that the whole House will wish her well, in her future endeavours.
I am sure that the Attorney General agrees with me that nobody needs an effective CPS more than the victims of crime. Will he join me in welcoming the appointment of the new chief inspector of the CPS, and will he reassure me that the recently published victims strategy will sit at the heart of the CPS 2020 strategy so that the victims and witnesses of crime get the care and respect they deserve?
I entirely confirm that. Victims are at the heart of everything that the CPS should be—and is—doing, and I agree with my hon. Friend about the appointment of Mr McGinty. I am most grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Robert Neill), who chairs the Justice Committee, for confirming that appointment, and I expect the appointment of Mr McGinty to lend considerable value as we move forward with important reforms in the governance of the CPS.
If the Attorney General is to refer to his hon. Friend, may I gently say that to exclude Chislehurst might cause some offence to the residents thereof?
Mr Speaker, I put on record my profound apologies to Chislehurst.
The CPS has lost more than 400 prosecutors due to cuts since 2010. Is that why the outgoing director of the CPS says that our criminal justice system is “creaking”?
I noted carefully the DPP’s concerns on that matter, but the performance and conviction rates of the CPS are the highest they have been in many years, and therefore they show no sign that it is creaking as a consequence of manpower. I think that the DPP was referring to a real challenge that we face, which is the increasing volume of evidence—particularly digital evidence from smartphones and computers—that is placing a real strain on both the police and the CPS. I shall be tackling that shortly in the review I am publishing on disclosure.
That is an excellent suggestion, and I shall look at it extremely carefully. It sounds like something we need to take forward.
Is the Attorney General aware that a cross-party group of MPs has recently been told by senior police sources that the Crown Prosecution Service has not got the capacity to take on new cases involving dreadful crimes against children and that men who they know have committed such dreadful offences are not being pursued because the CPS does not have the resources? That is a very serious worry.
If that were true, I would share the hon. Gentleman’s profound concern. I will look into the matter as a consequence of his having raised it this morning.
May I, and all residents of Bromley and Chislehurst, welcome and endorse the comments of my right hon. and learned Friend about Mr Hill QC—a barrister of the very highest standing—Alison Saunders and Mr McGinty, who greatly impressed our Committee with his rigour as inspector? The Attorney General referred to proposals to reform the governance of the Crown Prosecution Service, and when we investigated the issue of disclosure, there was some concern about the potential ambiguity in how the role of superintendence over the CPS works. Will the Attorney General give us his thoughts on how that issue might be strengthened and clarified?
I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for that question, and as he knows, I am currently considering how further detail and structure could be given to the statutory superintendence role. It is important that in that role I ensure—in so far as it is appropriate to do so and while protecting the fierce independence of prosecutorial decisions that the CPS rightly shows—that I am able to understand more clearly how matters are developing, for example, in connection with disclosure. I am therefore considering structural changes to the governance arrangements, and they will be announced in due course.