Police should take over the prosecution of more ‘routine non-contested cases ’, the attorney general suggested last night.
Dominic Grieve QC said there is a ‘greater role for the police to play’ charging low-level offences that would enable an overburdened Crown Prosecution Service to consider larger and more serious offences.
‘Too many low-level offences were being considered by prosecutors and, inevitably a degree of delay was introduced,’ he said.
Grieve (pictured) told an event organised by Queen Mary’s Law School in London that there are certain ‘non-contested, regulatory and traffic offences which can be and may well be best handled by the police’.
The AG, who last year extended the number of offences that can be handled by the police, said: ‘I do not see the police prosecuting contested cases but I can see more of the routine, non-contested work, thereby freeing the CPS to deal with more difficult cases.’
He stressed the need to maintain prosecutorial independence, which he said ‘underpins a fair and just system’, and said there should not be a ‘wholesale return of prosecutions to the police’ but said ‘that is not to say there is not more than the police can do’.
Grieve said he is ‘working closely’ with the home secretary and justice secretary to determine where work can be given to the police ‘without detracting from the vital role the CPS plays or lessening the robust fairness of the system we currently have’.
Elsewhere in the speech, Grieve said he was not in favour of a privatised CPS with a devolved system of independent local prosecutors. The present national model, he said, is better placed to ensure independence and efficiency.
Grieve said: ‘The CPS plays a vital role and, despite the occasional high-profile failure or error, we should not lose sight of the fact that the vast majority of cases are prosecuted professionally and successfully in accordance with the principles of independence, fairness and impartiality.
‘As the most visible player in the trial process the CPS is too often an easy target for uninformed criticism, a scapegoat for wider failings within the CJS. The reality suggests such criticism is very often misplaced.’
But he recognised the need for reform within the CPS and wider criminal justice system, saying: ‘I do not pretend to see finery where there are only rags; there is scope for improvement.’