Broadly speaking, the process of a crime through the criminal justice system should be as follows:
- Crime reported to police
- Police arrest suspect
- Police gather evidence
- The CPS are passed the file of evidence
- A lawyer considers the evidence, and the public interest in a prosecution, before deciding what charges are appropriate, if any.
- Suspect charged and appears before the courts
- Plea entered
- Trial or sentence, as appropriate
I am professionally involved in rendering stages 4 and beyond as Kafka-esque as possible.
In short, the CPS is universally disliked by the other parts of the criminal justice system. The police hate it when they arrest a well-known villain, who is pointed out on a street corner by the victim of a mugging, and we don't prosecute. The mugging victim probably isn't too impressed either, but at least he gets a polite letter not really explaining anything -- more of this anon. The courts hate it when we mess them about. The judges and magistrates hate it when we fail to comply with orders. The defence hate it when we don't comply with our disclosure obligations, change our minds at the last minute, and generally give them the run-around. Defendants hate it when they are in prison for 2 months before someone with a grain of sense drops the shoddy case that had previously been cobbled together.
Before I am instantly pigeon-holed as disaffected amd cynical (perish the thought), I should point out that I consider prosecuting criminals to be an essential part of a functioning society, and is something that must be done well if justice is to exist. It is also extremely satisfying to have someone thanking you through tears of relief after a long trial, following which their violent and abusive partner has been convicted and carted off to the cells.
I now fear that technical language will occasionally be unavoidable, but I shall do my best to keep it comprehensible for the lay reader. I shall also strive to avoid latin phrases, which are a pretentious lawyerly affectation, and should be kept de minimis.
And so to business. I will touch on the following topics in the posts to come: prohibition / legalisation, prison, rehabilitation, civil liberties, police action, the essential role of coffee, CPS policies, communication with victims, community engagement, proposed legal aid reforms, Labour's criminal justice policies, the Tories' criminal justice policies, the Lib Dems' criminal justice policies, and just for a laugh, the BNP's criminal justice policies.
If readers wish to hear an extremely unofficial, and entirely honest CPS viewpoint on a particular matter, with the obvious exception of real cases, then do mention it.