Last Sunday, The Sun on Sunday published a misleading article (Witless for the Prosecution) on the performance of the Crown Prosecution Service.
The article said prosecutors deal with 160 cases “at a time”. Last year, CPS prosecutors on average dealt with 79 cases at any one time although of course not all of those cases will require active consideration at the same time as many will be awaiting trial or sentence with the necessary work having been completed. Those dealing with Magistrates’ Courts will have more cases whilst those dealing with complex Crown Court matters will, of course, have fewer.
The article said one in 20 homicide cases fail because “the CPS has not produced enough evidence”. The proportion of homicide cases dropped has reduced by more than a third over the last five years. It is absolutely right that where there is not enough evidence, a case does not proceed. The evidence, which is provided to us by the police, can change and new evidence can come to light which changes the overall strength of the case, for example.
The article said “just two lawyers can cover as many as 16 courts”. It is ridiculous to suggest that the entire caseload of 16 criminal courts will be dealt with by just two lawyers running between them or that just two lawyers would have to present all of those cases in court between them on any given day. But with digital working, different lawyers can prepare cases for numerous courts remotely.
The article said prosecutions have dropped by 10 per cent –implying that this was due to some CPS failing. It is true CPS case numbers are down in the Magistrates’ Courts as police have taken over the prosecutions of some higher volume but lower level crimes (this explains the decrease in CPS led prosecutions (by 12%) in Magistrates’ Courts). But the number of CPS prosecutions in the Crown Courts has increased from 2013-14. Of the cases referred to us (and not retained by the police) we are actually bringing more cases to court than five years ago, and now we charge more than three cases for every one we decide not to proceed with.
The article implied the DPP receives £600,000 a year. The DPP’s salary is on our website at between £200,000 and £205,000 in the year 2014-15, and is set out in the Annual Report. The DPP is also part of the Civil Service, standard, “Classic” pension scheme which calculates potential future benefits over many years, in the same way for every member of its scheme.
The vast majority of this context and information was provided to the Sun on Sunday, at its request, on the Friday before publication.
Our record of delivering justice for the public speaks for itself. The overall conviction rate has been maintained at over 80% - that means that more than four in five of the cases we prosecute result in a conviction. And last year, we secured more convictions against sex offenders than in any other year on record, with many of these cases being particularly sensitive and complex. This is a credit to our hardworking and dedicated staff.