Another day another seemingly radical cost-saving endeavour thought up by the government.
Recent news is that the Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC is advocating a new role for police officers. In short, they’re going to be turned into Magistrates’ Court prosecutors! His suggestion is that police officers should prosecute summary criminal matters. At present, these cases are prosecuted by members of the Crown Prosecution Service or instructed counsel. The idea is designed to free-up the overworked CPS prosecutors from the simple and mundane non-contested matters.
Presumably these police officers will be legally educated, trained and will have undergone the requisite training contract or pupillage to allow them rights of audience in our courts? Erm, no. Presumably they will be independent prosecutors, constantly bearing in mind their overriding duty to the court rather than their colleagues at the police station? Hhhmmm…you can see the potential difficulties there.
At present if independent counsel is briefed to prosecute a “list” of matters in the Magistrates’ Court, they will be authorised to present the case but have no authority to make decisions. If, for example, none of the prosecution witnesses attend court, we, as experienced barristers, cannot take the decision to offer no evidence on our own volition, but have to telephone the CPS to take instructions. Invariably we will speak to an administrative assistant who will have had no prior dealings with the matter. They will ask for our advice, we will advise and they will then instruct us to follow our advice! So what will happen when PC Plod prosecutes? PC Plod having no legal qualifications, no court experience and no appropriate training! Am I the only one thinking this isn’t going to work?!
The Guardian reports on the matter here.