HC Deb 21 May 1997 vol 294 cc73-4W
Ms Blears

To ask the Attorney-General what plans he has for improving the effectiveness of prosecution arrangements. [1198]

The Attorney-General

The pledges we made in our manifesto and the paper "The Case for the Prosecution" published before the election envisaged a change to the organisational structure of the Crown Prosecution Service so that there would be a one-to-one relationship between a police force and its corresponding CPS area as equal partners. In addition, we undertook to establish a review under the auspices of a person of the calibre of a High Court Judge to examine more closely the internal structures of the CPS, together with its policies and procedures and in particular whether they have been a factor in the extent to which convictions have fallen—by more than a third—whilst crime has risen so dramatically in recent years.

Immediately on taking office I asked the Director of Public Prosecutions to work up proposals for dividing the Crown Prosecution Service into 42 areas each having its own Chief Crown Prosecutor ie. one for each police force outside London with the Metropolitan Police and City of London Police beings served by one CPS area. She has now done so. The basic timetable of the arrangements to be implemented is as follows: 1. By 1 June 1997: DPP will have, as an interim measure, identified and named individuals to be known as the Crown Prosecutor for each of the proposed new CPS areas. The immediate role for those persons would be to assume oversight of the casework in the relevant area, together with the responsibility for local, consistent delivery of casework practices; and a personal involvement in serious or sensitive cases. He or she would also represent the CPS within the police force area and act as principal point of contact for the Chief Constable having a general role in developing and influencing local relationships with other criminal justice agencies and the wider public. 2. The broader management and administrative arrangements within the CPS, apart from the casework and representational functions mentioned above, would remain unaltered for the time being. 3. By April 1998: The DPP will formally vary the division of the CPS into the 42 new areas through a direction made under Section 1(5) of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985. Selection boards will have been held to appoint 42 Chief Crown Prosecutors for the areas. The 42 Chief Crown Prosecutors will assume their full management responsibilities for areas. They will manage their areas within an agreed framework with responsibility for their budgets, but accountable ultimately to the DPP for the performance of the service in their areas.

The detail surrounding these arrangements will be informed by the proposed review of the CPS on which I will be making a further announcement shortly. I should add that we are firmly committed to the principle of an independent prosecution service within a coherent national framework: our aim is to build on and adapt the underlying strengths and real achievements of the CPS in the past 10 years, so that the Service is able to deliver its full potential.