HC Deb 26 June 1995 vol 262 cc562-3
31. Dr. Spink

To ask the Attorney-General what are the latest statistics for the number of cases brought to court by the Crown Prosecution Service. [28735]

The Solicitor-General

During the year ending March 1995, cases in respect of 1,477,617 defendants were finalised by the Crown Prosecution Service. In the magistrates courts 161,429, or 11.7 per cent. of proceedings instituted, were discontinued compared with 12.5 per cent. and 13.5 per cent. for the two previous years.

Dr. Spink

I am indebted to my hon. and learned Friend for that answer. It confirms that the number of cases discontinued, when compared with the figures for the previous two years, has fallen. Will he welcome that trend and ensure that there is the closest possible liaison between the police and the CPS to encourage it and to build on it in future?

The Solicitor-General

I join my hon. Friend in welcoming that trend. He should be aware that the consultation survey that took place on discontinuance showed that in 74 per cent. of all cases discontinued, the police agreed with that decision in 96 per cent. of those cases. In 29 per cent. of discontinued cases,the CPS had no option but to discontinue because witnesses either did not attend or refused to go to court, or, in motoring offences, defendants produced documents at court. The complaint made by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) that there is anger in the police service about the level of discontinuance is entirely wrong.

Mr. Hutton

But is the Solicitor-General satisfied with the growing number of cases that have been dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service and subsequently taken on successfully as private prosecutions? Could it be argued that in those cases the CPS has let down many victims of crime?

The Solicitor-General

The hon. Gentleman is wrong in speaking of a growing number of cases. I repeat that it is not a growing number of cases. Such cases are few and far between. When the House passed the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 it was astute in leaving with citizens the right to initiate a private prosecution if they so wished. Only very occasionally does the private citizen feel obliged to do that.