Wednesday 29 April 2015

Leave the Director of Public Prosecutions alone...

The DPP is a statutory office in which there is vested a duty to take over and conduct of any and most (but not quite all) public prosecutions, e.g. (re the Police), section 3(2) Prosecution of Offences Act 1985:

(2) It shall be the duty of the Director[, subject to any provisions contained in the Criminal Justice Act 1987]—

(a) to take over the conduct of all criminal proceedings, other than specified proceedings, instituted on behalf of a police force (whether by a member of that force or by any other person);

 & "conduct" includes bringing such proceedings to an end: section 15

(3) For the purposes of this Part, references to the conduct of any proceedings include references to the proceedings being discontinued and to the taking of any steps (including the bringing of appeals and making of representations in respect of applications for bail) which may be taken in relation to them.

We are lucky to have her and not a politician or an elected prosecutor or a supposedly French style independent investigating Magistrate.

She makes hard tough decisions on a daily basis, and no doubt gets it wrong from time to time, being human etc.

& as Lord Bingham made clear in R v Director of Public Prosecutions, ex p Manning [2001] 1 QB 330, once she has made her decision, she is answerable to the AG but save in exception circs giving rise to grounds of JR, nobody else:

“23.The primary decision to prosecute or not to prosecute is entrusted by Parliament to the Director as head of an independent, professional prosecuting service, answerable to the Attorney General in his role as guardian of the public interest, and to no- one else. It makes no difference that in practice the decision will ordinarily be taken by a senior member of the CPS, as it was here, and not by the Director personally. In any borderline case the decision may be one of acute difficulty, since while a defendant whom a jury would be likely to convict should properly be brought to justice and tried, a defendant whom a jury would be likely to acquit should not be subjected to the trauma inherent in a criminal trial. If, in a case such as the present, the Director’s provisional decision is not to prosecute, that decision will be subject to review by senior Treasury counsel who will exercise an independent professional judgment. The Director and his officials (and senior Treasury counsel when consulted) will bring to their task of deciding whether to prosecute an experience and expertise which most courts called upon to review their decisions could not match. In most cases the decision will turn not on an analysis of the relevant legal principles but on the exercise of an informed judgment of how a case against a particular defendant, if brought, would be likely to fare in the context of a criminal trial before (in a serious case such as this) a jury. This exercise of judgment involves an assessment of the strength, by the end of the trial, of the evidence against the defendant and of the likely defences. It will often be impossible to stigmatise a judgment on such matters as wrong even if one disagrees with it. So the courts will not easily find that a decision not to prosecute is bad in law, on which basis alone the court is entitled to interfere. At the same time, the standard of review should not be set too high, since judicial review is the only means by which the citizen can seek redress against a decision not to prosecute and if the test were too exacting an effective remedy would be denied.”

We all have a right to express an opinion about her decisions, but not at the expenses of undermining the integrity with which this important office must be vested.  

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