Costs should not prevent a prosecution

First published in Our View by

While there are undoubtedly occasions where a prosecution of an offender does not serve the public interest, it is a cause for concern that new guidelines issued by the Crown Prosecution Service are likely to mean fewer prosecutions.

Already, far too many offences do not result in prosecutions, either because the culprit is not caught, or if he is, there is insufficient evidence The new guidelines seem to suggest that cost to the CPS and the public purse may become a factor in deciding whether to prosecute, and that is something that should be resisted at all costs.

There may be occasions where the offence is at the lower end of the scale where a prosecution is not in the public interest, but any suggestion at all that a price is put on justice being seen to be done is completely wrong.

Our legal system is one of the best in the world, and defendants are rightly considered innocent until proven guilty. Just because it might prove difficult and costly to prosecute cases should never be an argument against pursuing offenders.

One Bradford solicitor says he is already aware of the CPS dropping cases he believes should have gone to trial involving his clients. If that is happening now, introducing these guidelines can only lead to yet more cases that should go to court being dealt with by other means.

There is an argument that a long and costly court case that ultimately results in a conditional discharge or low level fine is not the best use of court resources. But everyone is entitled to their day in court, including and especially the victims.

To tinker with the basic principles of our legal system in a bid to save money and time is misguided.

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