Decline in prosecutions for all offences
There has been a marked decline in the percentage of reported crimes resulting in a charge or summons. In 2017/2018 prosecutions were brought in 9.1% (442,717) of cases. In the year ending March 2019, this figure was down to 7.8% (403,221). In Home Office data issued this month there were 75,305 offences reported last year that were classed as ‘prosecution prevented or not in the public interest’ with the greatest number in that category where the Police had decided it was not in the public interest to prosecute. The figure falls dramatically to only 1,717 cases where the CPS make the same evidential decision.
The largest category of offences that were charged/summonsed was possession of weapon offences at 35% closely followed by drug offences at 27%. The percentage falls dramatically in relation to sexual offences at 3.5%. In cases of rape (where only 1.5% of cases result in a charge) two in five rape complaints were closed as a result of the victim not supporting police action. The proportion of offences that were closes as a result of ‘evidential difficulties’ also rose from 29% to 32%. In relation to sexual offences (including rape), a third of reports had not been assigned an outcome by the end of the reporting period.
A key reason for the decline is substantial cuts to police and Crown Prosecution Service budgets resulting in certain offences being prioritised over others.
Christina Blacklaws, president of the Law Society of England and Wales said: “Our criminal justice system is crumbling, and it simply does not have the capacity to function effectively. Solicitors often report delays from the police in preparing and taking statements, and the CPS in reviewing evidence and deciding upon the charge. To deal with this problem, police forces are increasingly releasing suspects under investigation – often with no time limit to complete the investigation and bring the case to court”.
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Articles are intended as an introduction to the topic and do not constitute legal advice.