CPS 'Complex And Ineffecient'

A report has warned that an increasing number of suspects are being granted bail by police because of delays in making decisions on charges.

The study by the Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Inspectorate for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) reviewed the new charging procedures for more serious and contested cases in England and Wales.

In November 2001, a review of the practices and procedures of the criminal courts undertaken by Lord Justice Auld (the Auld Review) recommended that the CPS, rather than the police, as was then the position, should assume responsibility for charging in all but minor cases or where circumstances required a holding charge before the CPS could be consulted.

The recommendation was accepted by Government and, following a pilot across five CPS Areas, was given statutory effect via the Criminal Justice Act 2003. Statutory Charging was rolled out across all forces in England and Wales.

Two inspectorates found that the new procedures are "inconsistent, overly-complex and inefficient". They believed it has led to delays, with "significant" numbers of suspects being granted bail by police, after arrest, while a decision is made on their prosecution.

Some suspects are bailed for several months and the inspectorates say a more "flexible common sense" approach is needed. Long bail terms are said to increase the risk of re-offending.

However the report found benefits to the new system such as fewer weak cases going to court and better quality decisions.

The inspectorates are not in favour of the Conservatives' proposal to restore charging discretion to the police for all cases tried in magistrates courts.

The CPS welcomed the report, Chief Executive Peter Lewis, said: "This was a huge organisational and cultural change for the CPS and police, which we implemented 12 months ahead of schedule. It aims to ensure defendants are charged with the right offences from the start and that we build robust prosecution cases. We also rely on Statutory Charging to form the cornerstone for other reform projects.

"This has also been a huge success for the police and CPS working together at a national and local level to improve service delivery for the public and our partner agencies. We are pleased that the report acknowledges the progress made, and we are also grateful to the Joint Inspectorate for highlighting those elements of the process that can be addressed to secure even greater benefits."


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