HC Deb 09 September 2004 vol 424 cc1354-5W
Mr. Grieve

To ask the Solicitor-General if she will make a statement on the progress of the pilot schemes to involve the Crown Prosecution Service in the pre-charge investigation process; and whether time savings have been identified from such pilot schemes. [175512]

The Solicitor-General

Following the charging pilots in 2002–3, and the legislative changes in the Criminal Justice Act 2003, the Crown Prosecution Service, in partnership with the police, arc implementing the charging arrangements.

Shadow Charging arrangements have been implemented in all police force areas in England and Wales, and crown prosecutors now provide charging advice at 248 of the 373 operational units during normal office hours.

A Commencement Order (under the Criminal Justice Act 2003) was issued on the 29 January 2004, which allows the Director of Public Prosecutions to apply Statutory Charging arrangements. The statutory scheme was first applied at Longsight in Greater Manchester. The scheme has since been rolled out across West Yorkshire, Kent, South Yorkshire, Cleveland, Lancashire, Northumbria, Avon & Somerset, Nottinghamshire, Humberside and Greater Manchester.

It is expected that the benefits will be a reduction in the rate of discontinuances to 69 per cent. guilty plea rate to increase by 30 per cent. and the conviction rate to increase by 15 per cent.

Early consultation between police officers and crown prosecutors will assist in getting the charge right first time, and reducing remedial work often required to bring cases up to appropriate quality standards. Weeding out weak prosecutions at an early stage will save further effort for both the police and the Crown Prosecution Service. In addition, an increase in guilty pleas will result in fewer trials, with benefits for not only the police and the Crown Prosecution Service, but also the courts. These improvements will result in an estimated 3.2 per cent. efficiency gain on contested cases going through the criminal justice system.

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