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Crackpot Prosecution Service?

Crackpot Prosecution ServiceA reader sent us some information last week that troubled us greatly.

It seems the Crown Prosecution Service is consulting on changes that have been proposed to its 'Code for Crown Prosecutors'.

The Code is the overarching document that all prosecutors follow in deciding whether or not a suspect should be charged.

In a press statement issued on 19th July, their Mr Keir Starmer said: "This version of the Code is intended to help the CPS take a more focused, proportionate and effective approach to bringing criminals to justice. The Code is an important document which governs all prosecution decisions made by police and prosecutors, so I warmly invite everyone interested to respond to the public consultation."

He went on to say the CPS has a much broader remit, having now assumed responsibility for prosecutions that were previously conducted by HM Revenue and Customs, Defra and DWP, as well as the prosecution of cases referred by the 42 police forces in England and Wales, IPCC, SOCA and others.

By now we're smelling a rat.

We see the hand of the Treasury and cost savings behind this move. We see amalgamations and staff reductions as the aim, not a better service.

'Proportionality' is often a bureaucratic, euphemistic, doublespeak term used to cover-up the abandonment of a responsibility or process that most folk believe is the correct way of doing things.

Mr Starmer went on to say "The CPS handles 900,000 defendants each year, and it is critical that we have the most effective, proportionate and focussed approach possible to dealing with criminality. I want to see a stronger, smarter CPS, continuing to prosecute robustly and bringing offenders to justice for the good of the public and victims. I think this new Code will help us meet that aim."

By now, anyone with any sense reading this missive will start to get really worried.

This is the doublespeak language of the former Commissar. Usually it means the opposite of what it says.

The incredibly curious can follow this link to read the whole press statement if they like.

Mr Starmer continued: "The changes to the public interest considerations in this draft aim to direct prosecutors to think about the particular circumstances of the case they are working on, rather than to consider the previous list of pre-determined generalised factors."

Speaking about the addition of proportionality into the Code, Mr Starmer said: "Proportionality is about ensuring that we and the police are choosing the right cases to prosecute from the start, and doing so in the most effective way. Where cases are complex prosecutors should ensure prosecutions are focused. There may be cases - for example where a court might convict a defendant but decide not to record that conviction by giving an absolute discharge - where police officers or prosecutors might anticipate that a prosecution is not a proportionate way to approach the criminality. A common sense approach will ensure the right cases are brought before the courts, and those that shouldn't be prosecuted are not introduced to the system only to later be withdrawn."

By now we're getting quite ready to line up a firing squad for Mr Starmer (after we give him a fair and, if necessary, costly trial of course)

But, most tellingly of all, the 'Editors Notes' to the press statement begins "The addition of proportionality follows prosecutorial Codes in New Zealand, Canada and Australia and is not new in England and Wales: the Codes from 1986 and 1992 contained references to proportionality"

These weasel words show he is already expecting trouble from what's being proposed and he's trying to head the trouble off before it starts.

We think - and we certainly hope - that he will not be able to quell the anger and revulsion that will surge from the grassroots community when people realise what he's up to (or maybe what he's been put up to, by the Government, in order to reduce what they are spending on prosecutions).

Whilst the consultation version of the new Code contains several proposed changes, the key new part says:

"Prosecutors should also consider whether prosecution is proportionate to the likely outcome, and in so doing the following may be relevant to the case under consideration:

  • The cost to the prosecution service and the wider criminal justice system, especially where it could be regarded as excessive when weighed against any likely penalty. (Prosecutors should not decide the public interest on the basis of this factor alone. It is essential that regard is also given to the public interest factors identified when considering the other questions in paragraph 4.14 a) to g), but cost is a relevant factor when making an overall assessment of the public interest).
  • Cases should be capable of being prosecuted in a way that is consistent with principles of effective case management. For example, in a case involving multiple offenders, prosecution might be reserved for the key participants in order to avoid excessively long and complex proceedings."

Absolutely awful!

This is a disaster of a proposal.

This revised, 'more succinct' code would add to the existing public interest test the question as to whether the likely outcome of a prosecution was proportionate to the costs involved in bringing it.

In effect, it plans to introduce 'cost effectiveness' into deciding whether to prosecute at all, and it suggests that where several people are involved, it might be appropriate only to prosecute the ringleaders.

Who on earth thinks either of those is a good idea?

The implication of those paragraphs being implemented would lead to ever more offenders being let off the hook (or more likely not being put on it in the first place), as our UK - so called - Prosecution Service (who already are not sufficiently robust in their decisions) find themselves unable to afford to prosecute them as before.

Even if there are deranged people who agree with this switch to a financial basis for prosecutions, it can't be fair or right that in the case of criminal gangs, only the 'leaders' will be put through the courts while 'lesser' gang members get off scot free (to continue unabated when their gang leader is jailed?)

We make no bones about the fact that we come at this matter from the harder end of crime and punishment. For example, we'd happily see the heads of drug dealers impaled on spikes at the entrances to the areas where they lived or worked. We figure that would cut down the number of dealers on our streets and send the right sort of message out to those that were thinking of taking up the role.

Society voluntarily gave up the bearing arms to protect ourselves when we entered into a compact with the state. They undertook to protect us from harm and to uphold the law. When that compact breaks down: when prosecution of criminals is decided according to how much we can afford to spend on prosecution: when we can no longer trust the state to effect the policing and punishment that will deter errant parts of society from a life of crime, then the state no longer has the moral authority to regulate those who would protect themselves. And we can all see where that path leads.

Changes to our justice systemThe UK has a well earned, and well deserved tradition that Justice should be blind. Her scales should not be weighted by ANY considerations other than the crime.

It is entirely wrong, and it sends out an appalling message to criminals, that we will only prosecute when the courts or CPS budget can afford to press for convictions.

The next step along that road is for the CPS to refuse to prosecute any case unless there is an admission of guilt when interviewed because of the cost in pursuing the matter to a contested trial.

This ridiculous proposal will take us further along the route to the destruction of ever more neighbourhoods and communities, and it will undermine our personal safety, as crime is downgraded. And this downgrading happens every time someone floats such ridiculous ideas such as this making 'economic'  forces a rationale for not prosecuting.

We got into financial trouble because of the same soft, deregulation, the lack of rigorous and firm stances being taken by those who should have been in control, and by the introduction of deregulated liberal policies to which no-one in authority was strong or wise enough to stand up to and say "No"

Well today, we're calling for a campaign to say "NO" to this idea of cost effective prosecution and limiting those charged to the group ringleaders.

We go further, we call for those in the CPS who either decided this was a good idea - or who buckled under financial pressure from the Treasury - to do the honourable thing and resign, and let someone who CAN do the job properly take over.

We also urge all our readers to make this disaster of a proposal widely known, and for everyone to send a firm consultation response to the CPS to let them know exactly what you think about this idea.

We've got to let these misguided strategists and lily-livered liberals know what we think about the current criminal justice system and how it's letting vulnerable victims down day in and day out.

And if it's a question of cost, they can take a couple of bob out of the next round of Quantative Easing where the Government has told the Bank of England to forge some more money we don't have, in order to prop up banks run by officials that should, themselves, have been prosecuted way before now.

To respond to the CPS consultation formally, you can follow this link to download the full consultation document which is in the middle of the CPS page. The document contains template consultation form you can complete.

But if, like us, you don't like being constrained to answer the questions they have asked, and you don't support the idea of being given boxes to provide your answers, you can simply email what you want to say to
code.consultation@cps.gsi.gov.uk

or write to
The Code for Crown Prosecutors consultation
Policy Directorate
Crown Prosecution Service
50 Ludgate Hill
London
EC4M 7EX

Dated:   23 July 2012


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