The Memo: Senior police make the case for the power to charge

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Senior police make the case for the power to charge

Chelsey Stanborough – 20 March 2023

It’s no secret that the effects of COVID on the justice system have continued well into 2023, and according to senior police, it’s beginning to take its toll on policing bodies around the UK. Police chiefs from the West Midlands, Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire forces (the next largest after the Metropolitan) have argued that, with the current state of the CPS, police should be granted the power to charge in relation to offences such as domestic abuse, harassment, theft and knife crime. Among their concerns is that the CPS’s resources are being spread too thin as a result of government cuts, and that it won’t be able to deliver timely charges within the period where a suspect is under arrest and contained.

However, critics of the move have raised concerns that granting these kinds of powers to police won’t fix the problem, but instead shift it to a law enforcement body that is already under strain. After all, similar concerns around government investment have been raised for both the forces and the CPS. According to the former chair of the Criminal Bar Association, police errors would only fall on the CPS to fix, potentially creating more delays and distress for anyone involved.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is the independent body tasked with prosecuting in criminal cases being investigated by the police and other bodies – entirely independently from the forces or government. The idea – in short – is for a fair and objective voice in criminal cases. By removing this independent body in the process, critics have argued that there is cause for concern around potential injustices that may result from any rushed efforts to deal with the backlog.

In recent months, concern around injustice in the police has been on the rise, with almost 50% of women and 40% of men indicating that their level of trust in the institution had declined in a recent study by End Violence Against Women.