200 cases delayed or dropped a week in London courts due to CPS failings, report finds

11:02 05 September 2013

Some cases had to be dropped because witnesses failed to turn up. Picture: PA

Some cases had to be dropped because witnesses failed to turn up. Picture: PA

PA Wire/Press Association Images

London has the worst record in the UK for dropped or delayed cases, new figures have revealed, with nearly 10,000 thrown out or held up in its courts last year due to prosecution or court system failings.

A report based on the findings, published by the Greater London Authority Conservative Group, has prompted one assembly member to accuse the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) of failing to “the basics right”.

Data obtained by the GLA Tories shows that 23,777 cases in London’s Crown and Magistrates’ courts were dropped or delayed last year, with 9,560 of those being due to the prosecution of court system.

That means, in 2012, on average 200 cases were thrown out or held up every week.

Tony Arbour AM, who represents the South West constituency on the London Assembly, said the situation could be making victims and witnesses “so disillusioned with the courts that they will not use the justice system again”.

He said: “These enormous sums mask the even greater emotional cost to victims and witnesses, who may become so disillusioned with the courts that they will not use the justice system again, and, worse still not even bother to report crime.

“Only by getting the basics right will the CPS reduce the number of dropped and delayed cases and bring villains to justice swiftly.”

According to the report, Justice Postponed, reasons for cases being dropped included the prosecution failing to ensure witnesses turned up or having insufficient evidence. Cases were delayed for reasons including the prosecution being under-prepared or busy in another trial.

The London branch of the CPS defended its record, adding that the report contained some “basic misconceptions and misleading claims”.

In a statement, CPS London Chief Crown Prosecutor Alison Saunders said: “Eight out of 10 cases in the capital end in a successful prosecution and the effective trial rate in the magistrates’ courts and Crown Court in London is among the highest in the country.

“Although some of the reasons cited in this report for trials being delayed or dropped are not within the control of the CPS, we recognise where we do fall short and are absolutely committed to driving up performance in London.

“We have been engaged in a major reorganisation and performance improvement regime for the last two years and the results are showing.”

She added:“I must approach some of the claims in this report with a degree of caution as there are a number of descriptions based on the anecdotes of one officer which I simply do not recognise and have not seen any evidence of.

“There are also a number of basic misconceptions and misleading claims in this report particularly in relation to cracked trials, communication between the police and the CPS, preparedness of advocates at court and support available to victims and witnesses.”

A “cracked” trial is one where a case has been discontinued but not dropped - for example where a defendant has pleaded guilty after a trial date has been booked.

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