I want us to be bold and imaginative about transforming policing and the wider criminal justice system to save time and money and deliver a better service for the public
These are the words of our ‘beloved’ Home Secretary which she used to describe her latest improvement to the way Police investigate and prosecute offences. This bold and imaginative move introduces the power for Police to independently charge a number of offences that currently require consultation with the CPS. These offences include criminal damage cases under the value of £5,000, some alcohol and public order offences and driving without due care and attention. There is a caveat to this new found freedom however. The offender must be expected to offer a guilty plea in order for the powers to become available.
Now I may be missing something here, but I though this was the way it used to be before the Director’s Guidance on Charging came into force a number of years ago. This previous ‘innovative’ change in working practices resulted in officers spending hours on the phone to Duty and Out-of-Hours CPS teams. This is how that system worked:
- Geoff gets grumpy with the latest love of his life when she refuses to walk to the other end of town for a kebab
- Due to his limited social skills, he expresses his anger by punching the window of the newsagents, causing it to break
- Due to his alcohol inhibited observation skills he fails to notice two fluorescent jackets standing ten feet away and is surprised when he feels a hand on his shoulder and is led away to a van
- The next day, sober and full of remorse, Geoff admits everything and even offers to pay for the damage to the window
- Because of previous offending he is not eligible for a Fixed Penalty or other non-court disposal
- The Police transcribe a summary of the interview, the evidence obtained, obtain the offending history, copy all the statements and put together all the other documents that the CPS will require
- Police either contact the duty or out-of-hours CPS prosecutors (at significant cost to the Constabulary) providing them, eventually, with their evidential package
- Time passes
- The CPS prosecutor agrees that his admissions are suitable and that the Police have done their job properly and authorises a charge
- The Custody Sgt charges Geoff with Criminal Damage and off he goes to court
Fixed Penalty tickets and other disposal options have removed part of this burden in respect of some offences, but the system has always been, and will continue to be, fraught with delay and unnecessary bureaucracy. I agree with the Home Secretary that it is about time that some of the charging powers were returned to the Police, but putting things back to [almost] how they used to be can hardly be called bold and imaginative.
If the figures are to be believed, an extra 91,000 cases will now be prosecuted without CPS involvement prior to charge. With an average CPS call time of 30 minutes for these simple cases and perhaps 30 minutes of prep time these changes could represent a saving of up to 50 years of officer time – every year. This is not, in my mind, an improvement on the current system, but the reversal of a small part of the problem created by the DPP Guidance in the first place. Let’s hope that this is, as it appears, a step in the right direction and that the bosses don’t feel it necessary to introduce too many forms to mitigate the risk of allowing Police Officers to make a few decisions now and again!
Nick Herbert has, today, published details about his vision for the future of the criminal justice system. I have read, of course, this document with great interest.
I guess I was being a little naive when I thought to myself, ‘there couldn’t possibly be anything more for the Government to throw at Policing than Winsor’s reviews and his subsequent recommendation for HMCIC’. Describing himself as the jam in the sandwich between Ken Clarke and Teresa May (not a mental image that I would have chosen to inflict upon myself) Herbert began leading up to the main announcement with yet another defence of the current Police Review process coupled with the usual mud-slinging, directed at the Police Federation. He repeated, yet again, his suggestion that the Federation was resistant to change and, yet again, tried to discredit them by suggesting that they had actively opposed female Police Officers, traffic wardens and Community Support Officers.
How the Police Federation could have objected to the employment of female Police Officers when the first WPC was in post a year before the Federation was even created is a mystery to me…
Herbert went on to accuse the Federation of mounting a personal campaign against Tom Winsor and stated that ‘it wasn’t right to reward that campaign’ which to me sounds like Winsor’s proposed appointment as HMCIC is nothing more than a punishment for the perceived misbehaviour of the Federation, adding further weight to the comments of those that referred to the announcement as deliberately provocative.
Before moving the conversation to the future, Herbert had one final dig at events in the recent past. He states that when rioting spiralled out of control across many towns and cities the Police were capable of an effective response, but were simply too slow to do anything about it. He fails to acknowledge that, at very short notice, massive numbers of officers were moved across many counties to provide a barely-adequate defence to the ongoing mass disorder in our cities. This was not a failure of Police Forces involved, this was a direct result of having an already under-resourced Police service that will only be further hampered by the loss of another 16,000 officers over the three-year period of the reforms his Government initiated.
Now we get to the interesting part… Continue reading
I am not going to get into the debate about whether cannabis presents a significant risk of harm, whether it draws people on to take stronger and stronger drugs to satisfy their need for a high, or whether it should be legalised, de-criminalised or re-classified yet again. Feel free to speak up in the comments if you have a point to make on these issues…
I don’t think I am alone when I say that I believe one of the biggest problems with cannabis is that it has become such an intrinsic part of many people’s daily lives that they see it as a ‘normal’ thing to have in the house. These ‘people’ think nothing of leaving it lying on the side in the kitchen next to their tobacco and lighter and put no more significance on sparking up a joint than putting a match to a Marlboro Light. While I accept that this abuse does not present the same risks as having Class A drugs or uncapped sharps strewn around the house, it still presents a significant risk if there are children living amongst the dangers.
Today in Salford Manchester, reception year teachers at a primary school got the surprise of their lives when a bag of cannabis fell from the pocket of a three year-old child at the nursery which operates within the grounds of the school. When asked about the drugs the child innocently produced two more bags before telling the teachers that: ‘It’s my dad’s for his cigs for smoking.’