The power to decide charges for those suspected of crimes will be passed from the Crown Prosecution Service to the police under plans announced by the Home Secretary on 9th May. Theresa May said the Home Office will pilot doubling the number of charges transferred to the police, making them responsible for 80% of charging decisions, including shoplifting cases.
Rationale for change
Charging defendants by post was among other measures outlined today to provide a ‘new, simpler and potentially quicker’ way of bringing a defendant to court for a prosecution. May said that in ‘appropriate bail cases’, this will allow officers to send a written charge by post, requiring the defendant to attend court on a specific date to answer the charge, rather than calling the suspect back to the police station.
The moves are part of raft of changes aimed at reducing police bureaucracy and giving police more control over the way they operate. They follow up a pledge made by the home secretary a year ago to give the police more freedom.
The Home Office estimates that the package of reforms could save over 2.5 million police hours every year, the equivalent of 1,200 police officer posts.
Under the present arrangements the police can only charge in these cases when a guilty plea is anticipated.
The CPS took over charging decisions in the most serious, sensitive and complex cases in 2006, but police always retained around 67% of all charging decisions – made up of high volumes of less serious cases. The CPS will continue to make charging decisions in the most complex and serious cases. ‘The ‘Public Prosecutions’ Guidance on Charging’ set outs these new charging responsibilities for police officers and the role of prosecutors.