HC Deb 04 November 1996 vol 284 c908
34. Mr. Mackinlay

To ask the Attorney-General what improvements have been made to the Crown Prosecution Service over the past year. [272]

The Attorney-General

Principal Crown Prosecution Service initiatives in the past 12 months include the setting up of the CPS inspectorate and close co-operation with the police through joint performance management to improve the handling of cases at all stages, including the timeliness and quality of police files.

Mr. Mackinlay

Does the Attorney-General remember 18 January 1993, when his colleague the Solicitor-General told the House about the number of cases forming the backlog at the central criminal court? What is the backlog of cases at the central criminal court today?

The Attorney-General

I do not know the answer to that question. If the hon. Gentleman tables a question to my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor, he will have directed it in the right direction.

Mr. Jenkin

Has my right hon. and learned Friend considered giving extra powers to the Crown Prosecution Service, most particularly powers for it to negotiate a sentence or fine directly with potential plaintiffs in front of a court, rather than having to go through the technical process of going to a court so that a sentence can be delivered? Would not that short-circuit some of the backlog in the courts?

The Attorney-General

My hon. Friend raises a very interesting question. That type of plea bargaining goes on in the United States in very serious cases, but I have not considered it. and I do not think that anyone has considered it in relation to the run of about 1.3 million cases prosecuted by the Crown Prosecution Service before magistrates courts.