Justice is about the defendant

I listened to the Home Secretary speak at the Police Federation Conference the other day. Amongst what she said there was little with which to disagree-except she described the Police as the “Custodians of Justice”. Later someone from the College of Policing emphasised the factual basis of this statement.

One of the reasons that cases collapse and the acquittal rate in the Crown court is at 40% is because the focus forced upon the Police is to deal with issues which should not be a priority. The role of the Police is to investigate crime and to maintain the Queen’s Peace. The statutory obligation to investigate cases is set on in the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996

Section 22

(1)For the purposes of this Part a criminal investigation is an investigation conducted by police officers with a view to it being ascertained—

(a)whether a person should be charged with an offence, or

(b)whether a person charged with an offence is guilty of it.

This is what the Police’s role is. They are NOT Custodians of anything. Judges, lawyers and juries are “Custodians of Justice” and the Police Officers and Staff, Probation Officers and Staff, Court Staff and Prison Officers and Staff as well as NOMS and Parole Board Members and Staff upon which our Justice system relies are the Servants of Justice.

Victims of Crime deserve to be treated better-but that should not be the Police’s responsibility. There is no reason why the Government should not finance and support Victim Support Services so that access to support services such as the NHS can offer or other charities can offer are free and available to all victims of crime.

The Police should be impartial. The Crown Prosecution Service can take account of a Victim’s views on their case and apply the variety of Codes which guide decision-making as to whether cases should be charged, how they should be charged and whether they should continue.

Too often the Police are called to a domestic incident and remove the male about whom there has been a complaint. Barriers to a proper investigation as envisaged by CPIA section 22 are created by domestic violence protocols and policies which have been forced upon the Police. Far better would be a Victims’ Legal Service which could advise victims of crime and apply for injunctions eg Restraining orders and Non-Molestation Orders and Domestic Violence Protection Orders and compensation on a Free basis (ie without a fee to pay and without charge to a victim of crime), funded out of taxes and costs orders made against convicted Defendants. The Police should not have to worry about being a victims new best friend. They should be engaged in gathering evidence in an objective, impartial manner. In my view current applications for DVPOs are actually made to protect the Police from criticism and are granted by Magistrates for precisely the same reason all because for the minute we are obliged to take domestic violence seriously. Remember ASBOs?

We need a system which is based upon consistent application of the law rather than on sipping up the latest flavour of the month. In this way victims and defendants will get better Justice and there will be less acquittals.

The fact is that the system is so under-resourced that it is a miracle that anyone is convicted. The manner of case investigation, preparation and prosecution-along with intrinsic inefficiencies in the system which digitalisation alone won’t cure-make defence advocates look great as cases splutter from one poor, late decision to another before the case is dropped or cracked ie a lesser charge is accepted and pleaded to.

Look at the latest Quarterly Statistics and read the report thoroughly. Instead of believing the propaganda put out by the Ministry of Justice and others, understand that the Justice system has collapsed {have a read of this report too: https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Efficiency-in-the-criminal-justice-system-Summary.pdf } and is being kept alive by the oxygen of goodwill which has always made the wheels turn smoothly. The problem is, that the oxygen is running out too. Proper resources across the Justice Systems are required.

 

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