The Crown Prosecution Service is under pressure but not on the ‘brink of collapse’, the attorney general told a House of Commons committee last night.
Responding to a BBC report which suggested that the service is severely stretched and that 18.4% of crime prosecutions were ‘ineffective’ or ‘cracked’, Jeremy Wright QC (pictured) told members of the justice select committee that the CPS is coping well under the pressures it is facing.
He said: ‘It is true of course that the CPS is under pressure… but it isn’t true that when you look at the statistics all is terrible.’
He said the CPS is under pressure because the cases it is dealing with are more complex and challenging than before, mainly due to an increase in the number of child sexual abuse cases.
He also acknowledged that the service, like other parts of government, also faces financial pressure.
But Wright said the CPS’s conviction rate is at 80% and that the number of ‘ineffective’ and ‘cracked’ cases as a result of prosecutions failing was going down rather than going up. He added that the service is taking on the financial challenges by ensuring that the back-office rather than the front-office functions are baring the brunt of cuts.
He said: ‘I don’t think the CPS is on the brink of collapse but neither do I think the CPS has been without its challenges over the last few years and frankly will not be without its challenges over the next few years. But I think that is partly unrelated to money and is more to do with the type of cases they are having to deal with.’
Commenting on a rise in the number of private criminal prosecutions, Wright denied that it was because of pressure on the CPS, and said it was ‘certainly’ a consequence of people realising that they had the right to pursue private prosecutions.
Wright was also asked about the government’s position on whether the UK would still be in the European Convention on Human Rights in 2020.
While he said that the government’s objective was to stay in the convention, he stressed it was not something it was prepared to do at any cost. The status quo 'is not sustainable and we need to do something about it'.