HC Deb 14 June 1982 vol 25 cc606-7
27. Mr. Dubs

asked the Attorney-General how many cases against police officers were referred to him in 1981; in how many such cases he decided to prosecute; and in how many of these a guilty verdict was returned.

The Attorney-General

A total of 8,830 files involving complaints against the police were opened by the Director of Public Prosecutions in 1981. It would take considerable time to say how many such cases were prosecuted or in how many of these a guilty verdict was returned. Of the 690 prosecutions undertaken in 1981, some would have been in respect of files opened in previous years. However, the great majority of these would be Road Traffic Act offences, where the conviction rate is usually very high. Of the remaining 84 prosecutions, 66 resulted in convictions. Included in these figures were: 21 prosecutions for assault, resulting in 10 convictions; 41 prosecutions for theft, resulting in 36 convictions; four prosecutions for sexual offences, resulting in four convictions; and 18 prosecutions for miscellaneous offences, resulting in 16 convictions.

Although in 1981 there were no completed prosecutions for corruption, the average conviction rate over five years for corruption is about 48 per cent.

Mr. Dubs

Does the Attorney-General agree that where a case has been referred to him following a complaint from a member of the public there is great dissatisfaction with what happens subsequently when a decision is taken not to prosecute because it is most unlikely that the police officer concerned will be subject to any disciplinary action? Will the Attorney-General, at the very least, ensure that where no decision to prosecute is taken, the member of the public who has made the complaint is given a full explanation of why nothing has been done?

The Attorney-General

Complaints end up on the desk of the Director of Public Prosecutions rather than mine. The point raised by the hon. Gentleman was one of the matters dealt with in the recently published report of the Select Committee on Home Affairs. The whole of that report is receiving the Government's careful attention.

Sir Charles Fletcher-Cooke

Will my right hon. and learned Friend look again at the application of the double jeopardy rule in such cases, because it is not understood by the general public, even although it may be based, at least theoretically, on a good legal principle?

The Attorney-General

This matter also arose in the Select Committee and it has given me a certain amount of anxiety. It is certainly a matter that I, with the Director of Public Prosecutions and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, will be carefully considering.

Mr. Archer

For the avoidance of doubt, can the Attorney-General confirm that the cases referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions arose from complaints by individuals and did not include general offences against public justice, such as in the Operation Countryman type of offence? Has the Attorney-General noted that the Select Committee on Home Affairs has endorsed the recommendation of the Royal Commission on criminal procedure for a system of local Crown prosecutors to investigate such complaints? What are the Government's views on that proposal?

The Attorney-General

As regards the first point, the figures that I have been given refer to complaints against the police by members of the public. I am sure the right hon. and learned Gentleman will have read the evidence that I gave to the Royal Commission, when I spoke strongly in favour of regional Crown prosecuting solicitors. As regards the future method of dealing with complaints against the police, the report has only just been published and I am sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will not expect us to have an immediate answer.