HC Deb 01 March 1984 vol 55 cc270-1W
Mr. Parris

asked the Attorney-General whether, in view of the refusal to proceed against policemen who beat up an elderly couple, Mr. and Mrs. David White, on the ground that the incident took place seven years ago, he will publish a tariff for time limitation of criminal proceedings against citizens other than policeman.

The Attorney-General

The Director of Public Prosecutions employs exactly the same criteria in all cases which he considers.

As I have stated in my guidelines on the criteria for prosecutions, when considering the institution of criminal proceedings, the Director of Public Prosecutions has firstly to be satisfied that the evidence is such that there is a reasonable prospect of a conviction, and, secondly, that the public interest requires the institution of criminal proceedings.

While each case is decided on its own particular facts, one of the factors which the Director quite properly takes into account when assessing whether the public interest requires a prosecution is the length of time which is likely to elapse between the date when the last known offence was committed and the probable date of any trial. The Director is slow to prosecute if the last offence was committed three or more years before the probable date of trial, unless, despite its staleness, an immediate custodial sentence of some length is likely to be imposed. Less regard is paid to staleness, however, if it has been contributed to by the proposed defendant himself, or the complexity of the case has necessitated lengthy police investigation.