Inspectors of police service and prosecutors have called for decisive action to streamline the criminal justice process and end ‘the spectre of unnecessary bureaucracy’.
In a joint report published today HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) and HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) identify factors that create unnecessary delay to cases and make seven recommendations for change - though the report accepts that ‘significant effort’ has been made to improve efficiency since a previous report in 2011.
The report is based on work with police force areas and associated CPS areas in South Wales, Avon and Somerset, Merseyside, Norfolk and Suffolk.
Examining police reports, a key document for the prosecution - from 40 randomly selected files - inspectors found that only three out of the 40 (7.5%) contained all the information needed to present a case to the court.
The inspectors were concerned that ‘too many’ people are detained in police custody under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 and that children and young people denied bail continue to be held in cells rather than being transferred to local authority accommodation.
The investigation found that a lack of holding cells and custody officers was resulting in excessive waiting times to ‘book in’ prisoners.
Police time is also taken up repeating mandatory drug testing for prolific offenders regularly in police detention and escorting detainees who are taken to hospital.
Arrangements for the transfer of detainees to court by private companies are not always effective and often resulted in police officers transporting detainees to court themselves.
Among the seven recommendations is for the College of Policing to ‘urgently’ review and improve the quality of police training in matters including substantive criminal law and procedure.
The report identifies the need for a ‘change in mindset’ to move from compliance with a set of forms to a greater understanding of the importance of good quality information and the fundamental role of the police as ‘gatekeepers to the criminal justice system’.
HM inspector of constabulary, Drusilla Sharpling and chief inspector of HM Crown Prosecution Service, Michael Fuller, said: ‘The time has come to act decisively, with renewed focus and determination to streamline the criminal justice process and banish the spectre of unnecessary bureaucracy that has been, for far too long, an impediment to progress.’