HL Deb 23 October 2003 vol 653 cc187-8WA
Lord Bradshaw

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the police, rather than the Crown Prosecution Service, should prosecute minor offences. [HL4752]

The Attorney-General (Lord Goldsmith)

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has a statutory duty under Section 3 of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 to take over the conduct of all criminal proceedings instituted by the police, but an exception is made for proceedings (termed "specified proceedings") in relation to very minor matters such as regulatory road traffic offences, the routine nature of which does not demand an independent review by the CPS. Specified proceedings cease to be specified at any time a court begins to hear the evidence in the case, at which stage the CPS will take over the conduct of the prosecution.

There is no intention to amend this aspect of the statutory relationship between the police and the CPS that underpins the constitutional independence of CPS prosecutors.

There are provisions in the Criminal Justice Bill currently before Parliament that do affect the working relationship between the police and CPS. Lord Justice Auld's Review of the Criminal Courts (October 2001) recommended that the CPS take on responsibility for determining the charge in all but minor or routine cases. Joint piloting of this recommendation by the police and CPS has proved very beneficial for the working relationship between the two services and improved their effectiveness in delivering justice on behalf of the public. Provisions in the Criminal Justice Bill will put this new working relationship on a statutory footing and have been widely welcomed.

The new relationship that is developing between the police and CPS will impact across the range of criminal cases from relatively minor cases to the most serious of cases involving serious, international and organised crime. As part of this developing relationship, the CPS will have in place from early 2004 a network of lead prosecutors who will provide a focus on anti-social behaviour. These prosecutors will work with the police, local authorities and local communities to bring the expertise of the CPS to tackle low-level crime that can make life a misery, particularly for our poorest communities. This development re-emphasises the role of the CPS as a key part of the criminal justice system to act on behalf of society in bringing offenders to justice and in delivering justice for individual victims and for our wider communities.