HC Deb 22 April 1999 vol 329 cc608-9W
32. Mr. David Heath

To ask the Attorney-General on how many occasions the Crown Prosecution Service has discontinued criminal prosecutions since May 1997 on the grounds of disproportionate cost. [80380]

The Solicitor-General

Each case which the police send to the Crown Prosecution Service is reviewed by a Crown Prosecutor. The case will be carefully considered to make sure that it meets the tests set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors, which is issued under section 10 of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985. The Code states that where there is enough evidence to offer a realistic prospect of conviction, in cases of seriousness, a prosecution will be the usual course of action unless there are public interest factors tending against prosecution which clearly outweight those tending in favour.

Cost, on its own, is not a factor that determines whether or not a prosecution should be discontinued. However, if during the course of a prosecution it becomes clear that a court is likely to impose only a very small or nominal penalty, a prosecution may no longer be in the public interest and the proceedings may be discontinued.

The Crown Prosecution Service does not maintain any central record of discontinued cases. The information is recorded on individual case files, the recovery of which would involve disproportionate cost.