In the Media

CPS mistakes letting criminals 'off the hook'

PUBLISHED March 14, 2006

MORE than half of the areas of the Crown Prosecution Service are failing to provide a ?good? service, according to the first full performance ratings published today.

The performance tables for all 42 areas of the CPS in England and Wales found a mediocre performance in more than half of the service. 
Most areas, inspectors say, are failing to communicate with victims by sending letters when proceedings had been dropped or charges reduced.

The inspectors conclude that there was ?significant non-compliance? on this initiative.

A second failing is that an ?unacceptably high? proportion of cases that should be committed to the Crown Court are discharged because the prosecution is not ready.

?The lack of readiness may be attributable either to the CPS or to the police or a combination,? the report says. A third failing was the ?increasing number of criminal justice areas? having difficulty in meeting the government target of 71 days from arrest to sentence for persistent young offenders.

The four worst-performing areas were Bedfordshire, Cumbria, Devon & Cornwall and Essex. The three rated ?excellent? were Humberside, South Yorkshire and Suffolk.

The Attorney-General concedes in his foreword to the report: ?Some CPS areas have major challenges to address.?

But he insists that, overall, the results bring credit to a service at a time of ?very significant changes?, such as a new witness scheme. Stephen Wooler, the chief inspector for the CPS, who published the ratings, said: ?This report confirms an overall satisfactory level of performance against a background of real change.?