Committee recommends reform of CPS and prosecution systems

August 7, 2009 at 1:16 pm Leave a comment

Specific changes to the operation of the prosecution system should be made, a committee of MPs has said.

A Justice Committee report commends the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for its collaborative working with the police, but raised concerns about a series of issues including consistency and the piecemeal way in which its functions are developing.

Sir Alan Beith, Chairman of the Justice Committee, said:

“The Crown Prosecution Service has come a long way since the early days in which it was much criticised, but it has taken on wider responsibilities, particularly in areas like conditional cautions, without there being a clear understanding of its role.

“It also has a difficult balance to strike between being a local community service with local discretion and a service which has central direction to maintain standards and ensure consistency.

“As the gatekeeper of the criminal justice system it needs to be robustly independent.”

The Committee welcomes CPS efforts to engage better with victims and witnesses, and calls for a major effort to do this consistently, but the Report says that government proclamations that the prosecutor is the champion of victims’ rights are “a damaging misrepresentation of reality” and risk raising expectations which will “inevitably be disappointed”.

The CPS, says the report, should be an independent arbiter representing the public as a whole rather than individuals.

The Committee was “deeply concerned” that victims and witnesses with mental health problems were often not recognised by prosecutors to be potentially credible witnesses, or provided with special measures to enable them to do so.

The Committee says people do not have a clear picture of the place of the Crown Prosecution Service within the criminal justice system.

Historically it has been seen as the minor partner, the handmaiden, to other organisations such as the police.

In reality, the decisions made by prosecutors are pivotal. They are the gatekeepers, determining which cases go forward into the system to be prosecuted at public expense.

Click here to read the report.


Entry filed under: Committees, Commons. Tags: , , , , , , .

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