Prosecutions by PC Plod

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.

6 thoughts on “Prosecutions by PC Plod

  1. davecthorne

    That is the system that we used to have, so not a new idea, but one that is sure to bring about some debate.
    Apart from the very valid points you make, where are they going to get these policemen from when their budgets are stretched and they already run on minimum levels?

  2. Andrew

    I’m a JP and a “chairtaker”. If PC Plod prosecutes I will expect the same standards as I would from a competent member of the profession. I will make no allowances.

  3. Alan Jones

    Move along please, nothing new to see here. This is a case of re-inventing the wheel. The initial rational for PACE and the subsequent formation of the CPS, in the mid 1980’s, was the understandable unease with the police being evidence gathers and prosecutors. Having previously prosecuted summary offences in front of the bench, as a (trained) serving officer, I have no real wish to return to the past. I would prefer those who are legally trained and removed from the police making decisions to prosecute on behalf of the Crown. Ex PC Plod LL.M LL.B Dip.Eng.Law and about to finish the BPTC.

  4. Adam Shire

    Those interested in the CPS for those who have, even completed the criminal electives of the LPC/BVC are simply not being recruited, set up a private sector subsidiary “the Magistrates Courts Prosecution Agency” if you must deny young trainees civil service pensions etc. which is understandable given how bloated they are, but do not think PCs can deliver as decent a service as to someone long-trained in advocacy and in court procedures.

  5. Andrew

    Adam – was it necessary to have a dig at public-sector pensions? Are you really saying that people should not have what they contracted for and paid contributions for?


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