19th April 2016

Number of Dropped Crown Court Prosecutions at Highest Level in Five Years

The BBC has reported that over 12,600 cases were discontinued from 2014 to 2015 which is the highest number of dropped prosecutions at a Crown Court in England and Wales in five years. Other worrying statistics also included Crown Court cases convictions falling below 80% for the first time since 2010-11, with the CPS claiming to keep a close eye on these statistics.

According to a study that has since been conducted, the main reason for these disappointing figures is due to the CPS dropping convictions after the charges had been made. The total number of dropped cases is believe to be 12,615 last year which is a direct increase of almost 1,7000 from the year before.

This news has subsequently caused a reaction from a variety of people:

Danny Shaw, BBC home affairs correspondent: "In 70% of the dropped prosecutions, the CPS offered 'no evidence".

"In other words the case was discontinued at a late stage, after the defendant had pleaded not guilty, and often after many months awaiting trial."

CPS spokesman: "All cases are kept under constant review as they progress through the criminal justice system."

"If new evidence comes to light, a witness decides to no longer support a prosecution or a co-defendant pleads guilty to the offence, the CPS will then review the case.

"If there is no longer sufficient evidence or if it is no longer in the public interest, the CPS will stop a prosecution.

"In 2014-15 the CPS offered no evidence in 8.8% per cent of cases. This compares to 8.3% the previous year and 9.4% the year before that."

Nazir Afzal, former chief Crown prosecutor of the CPS for North West England: "We have to ensure that we don't have the baying crowd mentality."

"There are lots of people who are desperate for cases to be brought for all sorts of reasons. A prosecutor must look at it in the cold light of day, professionally, ensure that they recognise any issues about the credibility of the allegation and make the decision that stands up.

"The accused person needs to have as much information given to him about what happened. That would not necessarily make life any better for him but certainly give an understanding that maybe, just maybe, the decision was right at the outset and something has changed."

However, one of our Criminal Barristers, Philip Bown has given an alternative view by highlighting support to the CPS:

“The majority of the press and ‘knee jerk’ reaction politicians and commentators will see these figures as a weakness in the CPS and another failure of the criminal justice system. Quite the contrary; the CPS are clearly reviewing and responding to evidential and other changes in cases as they proceed to trial. The input from experienced criminal defence solicitors cannot be underestimated in this process.” 

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