Crime has changed, so must the way we serve the public


The Director of Public Prosecutions' call for a full debate on the future role of the CPS has been welcomed by Cleveland's Acting Chief Crown Prosecutor.

Keith Simpson also added that valuable work already carried out in Cleveland, placing prosecutors at the heart of the criminal justice service, is being mirrored in other CPS Areas around the country.

He said the new Community Prosecutor approach, being pioneered in Middlesbrough, is one crucial way of bringing lawmakers and communities closer together.

Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC today published his document, The Public Prosecution Service: setting the standard, aimed at taking the service to a new level of effectiveness, responsiveness and transparency. To meet these new standards, publicly facing core quality standards will be introduced.

Mr Starmer said: "Times have changed since the Crown Prosecution Service was set up in 1986. Crime has changed; the approach to combating criminal behaviour has changed; and society's expectations of its prosecution service have changed. We are in a good place, but I believe it is time to move on and I want to encourage debate about the way forward to achieve a better service for the public.

"Now is the time for some radical re-thinking about criminal justice. For too long we have been part of a criminal justice system. That needs to change. Criminal justice should not be a system; it should be a service. And developing criminal justice from a system to a service is now a priority."

Mr Simpson said: "We loyally serve the public and, through working closely with other criminal justice agencies in Cleveland, strive to make our comminities safe and secure places to live. The standards contained in this new document will not only stimulate debate, they will set out the minimum standards that the public should expect from us.

"In Cleveland, we work hard to engage with communities, ensuring that we are in tune with public opinion. We also strive for excellence in our charging decisions which, for example, resulted in us leading the national table for rape convictions in 2007. Nevertheless, we must be truly accountable in everything that we do, such as advising the police, our role in court, supporting victims and witnesses and dealing with complaints. We can always improve."

Mr Starmer today also highlighted the new community prosecutor approach.

"We are putting prosecutors firmly within their local communities so that they know the types of crime that cause most local concern and are able to take the public's views into account in their decisions and in the information they place before the courts.

"By using our real life knowledge we will be able to inform lawmakers about the issues which really affect local communities so that we can advise on new laws that are needed or on those which are no longer relevant in today's society."

Mr Simpson added: "Middlesbrough has been chosen as one of the pathfinder areas for the new Community Prosecutor initiative. We see this as a key move to ensure that our lawyers are in tune with the concerns of the local community, being better informed when they come to make important charging decisions."

CPS North East is also launching the Community Prosecutor initiative in South Tyneside.