Wednesday, July 22, 2009

By way of introduction...

For the benefit of those amongst us who have the good fortune never to have had dealings with the CPS, the Crown Prosecution Service is the body responsible for criminal prosecutions in England and Wales. It came into being in '86, employs a very large number of people, and consumes a very large amount of taxpayers' money. The head of the CPS is the DPP, or Director of Public Prosecutions. Areas around the country mirror police constabularies, and are headed by Chief Crown Prosecutors. The people you see in your local magistrates' court are several rungs down the ladder from these lofty individuals.

Broadly speaking, the process of a crime through the criminal justice system should be as follows:

  1. Crime reported to police

  2. Police arrest suspect

  3. Police gather evidence

  4. The CPS are passed the file of evidence

  5. A lawyer considers the evidence, and the public interest in a prosecution, before deciding what charges are appropriate, if any.

  6. Suspect charged and appears before the courts

  7. Plea entered

  8. 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.


  1. I am really looking forward to this one! Between you, Bystander and the Inspector we have it sort of covered - all we need now is the defence.
    Any offers out there?

  2. I enjoyed the line about lawyers and Latin. Bona fide funny! I look forward to reading future entries :)

  3. Welcome. I came from Bystander's blog and will read future posts. Maybe add you as a favourite - in time.

  4. Bystander sent me your way. Welcome to the blogsphere.

  5. As others, I've been sent by Bystander.

    You're off to a good start already and I look forward to reading more and contributing to the comments.

    As Alan Sloman said, all we need is the defence. I imagine that they may be missing as they are the only ones not employed by the state and perhaps have the worst job of all...

  6. Visiting by way of Bystander. Best of luck!

    If in the way of explaining the UK justice system we could know who told Dick Wolf it would be a good idea to use a theme tune reminiscent of Newsnight for Law and Order UK, that would be a bonus...

  7. Like the many others, I was sent by Bystander.

    Regarding your promise to discuss "the BNP's criminal justice policies": Does the BNP have any criminal justice policies? The closest thing to a policy that I've heard from the BNP is having the EU murder asylum seekers at sea.

  8. I clearly owe Bystander a pint of best! Thanks for all your kind words, I look forward to the not-so-kind just as much.

    Re: BNP policies, I'll investigate and get back to you. Immigrant-murdering-by-the-boatload may only be the surface layer of a deeply sophisticated and finely tuned plan to reform the criminal justice system. Besides, it clearly saves money, so let's set up a focus group, draft a white paper, and see whether we can synergise our plan with the latest mind-map from the Ministry for Cross-Burning, always thinking outside the box, they are.

    Law and Ordure is an Americanized rip-off of a bastardisation of a travesty of a show. The theme tune is the least of its problems.

  9. Like what I've read so far, so welcome. Like many of your readers so far, I come by way of Bystander, having been a keen reader and occasional commenter over on his blog for some time now. My own "JP Blog" was very short-lived when I realised how hard I found it to appropriately keep things anonymous, and that I could never write one as well as Bystander's.

    Anyway - I have added you to my feed reader and shall look forward to reading more. You have enlightened me already!

  10. Hello - sounds interesting, I will bookmark your blog.

  11. The BNP have many many policies on all areas of governing Britain. If you want a really good laugh then you should read them.

    The law and order/justice polices can, if we are being kind, be described as naive and childish. If we're not then you may think them stupid and ill thought out.

    So far I have read every word published by the Anonymous Prosecutor and have loved every one of them. A excellent recommendation by Bystander.

    Alan Sloman, I would be delighted to offer my services as a defence solicitor blogger; however, as I am lazy (and largely illiterate) I regret that I would make a poor addition to the wonderful trio of BS, IG and AP.