Press release

Police powers to prosecute strengthened

Police led prosecutions will be extended to cover over half of all cases heard in a magistrate's court, the home secretary announced today.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The changes will give the police more professional discretion to prosecute cases and allow the crown prosecution service to focus on more complex cases. They will strip out bureaucracy and reduce delays in the criminal justice system offering the chance for better outcomes for victims and savings for the taxpayer.

The new legislation will cover a range of offences, including alcohol and public order offences, driving without due care and attention and criminal damage under the value of £5,000. These changes mean that the police can lead over half of all prosecutions in the magistrates’ courts - an increase of over 90,000  cases each year.

Under the new legislation police will follow more uncontested cases from the point of arrest right through to completion. The changes are part of wider reforms of the criminal justice system to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy and ensure swifter justice.

Home secretary Theresa May said:

‘The changes I am introducing will reduce unnecessary bureaucracy and ensure swifter justice. I want us to be bold and imaginative about transforming the way the police works, and the way the wider criminal justice system works, in order to save time and money and to deliver a better service for the public.

‘I will be working with colleagues across the criminal justice sector to examine whether we can go further on police-led prosecutions.’

The CPS will prosecute cases where a defendant pleads not guilty, is under the age of 16, or if the case starts by charge.

The changes will be tested in nine police force areas to find the best delivery model. The home secretary and attorney general will shortly lay legislation in parliament to enact these proposals. This announcement adds to plans announced in May at the police federation conference.

Note to editors

1. Cases will be handed over to the CPS if a defendant pleads not guilty, is under the age of 16, if the case starts by charge, or if the case results in custody. The last two provisions are to ensure that police have the discretion to make sure the CPS can deal with unusually serious cases - such as criminal damage as part of a campaign of domestic violence.

2. Together, the new offences will enable police to prosecute an additional estimated 91,000 cases per year (although this will depend on many are started by charge

Published 23 October 2012