HC Deb 08 February 2001 vol 362 cc679-80W
Miss McIntosh

To ask the Solicitor-General what was the average cost of a decision by the Crown Prosecution Service not to proceed with a prosecution which was at an advanced stage in the last 12 months for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement. [148955]

The Solicitor-General

No information is held which enables the Crown Prosecution Service to provide the cost of those cases where, at an advanced stage, a decision was taken not to proceed. During 2000, the average cost of all cases which have been dropped at any stage of the proceedings in the magistrates courts was estimated to be £56.44 per case.

The CPS conducts an independent review of every case received from the police in accordance with the criteria set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors. There are two stages in the decision to prosecute. Firstly, there must be sufficient evidence to offer a realistic prospect of conviction, and secondly the prosecution must be in the public interest. If a case fails either of these tests, then the CPS must discontinue the proceedings.

A survey conducted during the period October to December 1998 showed that the main reasons for not proceeding were: in 24 per cent. of cases an essential legal element was missing from the prosecution case; in 14 per cent. of cases a conviction was likely to result only in a very small or nominal penalty; and in 13 per cent. of cases the victim of an offence refused to give evidence or retracted the evidence.

The review of a case is a continuing process, and a case may fail either of the criteria for a prosecution at any stage. For example, the CPS may not be aware until the case is listed for trial that a key prosecution witness is unwilling or no longer willing to give evidence. Where this happens, the decision not to proceed can be taken only at this stage even though the costs of reviewing the case and preparing it for the trial have already been incurred.

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