‘Common sense’ test proposed for prosecutions

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Prosecution decisions would have to be tested for ‘proportionality’ under a proposed revised Code for Crown Prosecutors published by the director of public prosecutions yesterday.

The revised, ‘more succinct’, code would supplement the existing public interest test with a question about whether the likely outcome of a prosecution is proportionate to the costs involved in bringing it.

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Keir Starmer (pictured), director of public prosecutions, described the proposal, which is open for public consultation, as a ‘commonsense approach’.

Starmer said: ‘Proportionality is about ensuring that we and the police are choosing the right cases to prosecute from the start, and doing so in the most effective way. Where cases are complex prosecutors should ensure prosecutions are focused. There may be cases - for example where a court might convict a defendant but decide not to record that conviction by giving an absolute discharge - where police officers or prosecutors might anticipate that a prosecution is not a proportionate way to approach the criminality.’

The code is the over-arching document for prosecutors to follow in deciding whether a suspect should be charged. The last version to include a proportionality test was in 1992, the Crown Prosecution Service said.

A spokesperson said the new code was needed to simplify procedures following the CPS’s takeover of prosecution functions of the Department for Work and Pensions and other government departments.

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