Charging changes cut red tape

21/01/2011

A successful pilot to cut police bureaucracy has been adopted across Staffordshire ahead of a national roll-out. Staffordshire Police is the first force to implement new guidelines that give officers greater responsibility in deciding with what to charge a suspect.

It was one of five forces nationally to trial the scheme designed to save time by dealing with offenders quicker, allowing officers to spend more time on the streets. The successful pilot ran in Chase division, which includes Stafford, Stone, Cannock, Rugeley and South Staffordshire.

The changes mean that officers now decide on charges for less serious offences, such as common assault, criminal damage and threatening behaviour - whatever the anticipated plea. Previously, the decision would be left to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) if a not-guilty plea was expected.

It's estimated that 72 per cent of charging decisions will be made by police as a result an increase of five per cent.

The CPS will retain responsibility for charging decisions concerning domestic violence or hate crime and all other serious crimes.

Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale said: "We work very closely with CPS colleagues to bring offenders to justice by ensuring that cases are as strong as possible when they reach court.

"We identified significant time savings for officers of up to 70 minutes per case during the pilot. Offenders were dealt with more quickly and were spending less time on bail before appearing at court. 

"Crucially, the changes mean officers can spend less time dealing with suspects at police stations and more time out and about in their neighbourhoods."

Keith Prosser, Senior District Crown Prosecutor added: "Experience from the pilot sites has shown that where capable, suitably trained and skilled police officers, supported by effective quality assurance, are making correct charging decisions, there are advantages to be gained from these changes both in terms of freeing up officer time and releasing prosecutor time to concentrate on making charging decisions in more serious cases."
 
The new procedures, outlined in the Fourth Edition of the Director of Public Prosecutions' Guidance on Charging, are set to be adopted nationwide by June this year.