Police are to be given the power to prosecute up to 50 per cent of magistrates’ court cases, the Home Secretary announced today.
The bureaucracy cutting move will see about 500,000 cases taken through the courts by officers - reducing the time it takes to serve justice and preventing the duplication of work between the police and the Crown Prosecution Service.
Speaking at the Police Federation conference today, the Home Secretary told officers the new powers would begin with uncontested traffic offences where the defendant does not enter a plea or fails to turn up to court.
Home Secretary Theresa May said:
‘Wasting police time is supposed to be a criminal offence, but that is going on in courts every day of the week.
‘This move will slash bureaucracy, speed up justice and hand more discretion back to police officers.
‘Our model of more power for the police and the public and less for the bureaucrats will free up the finest officers in the world to fight crime.’
Officers can already prosecute uncontested low-level traffic offences such as speeding, failing to produce a driving licence or driving without insurance, but the Home Secretary said not all forces are using the powers available to them.
She told the conference she had won the agreement of chief constables to ensure the powers are used fully - and consistently - across every force in the country.
Today’s announcement means offences where the defendant does not come to court or does not enter a plea will be added to the list. The power is also set to be extended to other minor offences, with the details to be announced by the end of the summer.
Police officers already have to prepare paperwork for such court cases, but it is handed over to the Crown Prosecution Service when the defendant fails to turn up, meaning the work is duplicated.
The moves announced today at the conference add to changes already introduced by the government which will save up to 4.5 million police hours every year - the equivalent of putting more than 2,100 officers on the streets.
NOTES TO EDITORS
1. For more details, contact the Home Office newsdesk on 020 7035 3535.