CROWN Prosecution Service lawyers are setting out on a pilot scheme at six police stations to provide on-the-spot legal advice to police officers.
The scheme, announced by the CPS last December, is designed to improve liaison between the two agencies and to ensure more appropriate charging of suspects.
Law Society criminal law committee secretary Roger Ede warned at the time of CPS lawyers losing objectivity, but welcomed moves by police to seek legal advice on matters like sufficiency of evidence.
The first pilot starts with a help desk at Darlington police station, staffed continuously during normal office hours by a local Crown Prosecutor.
The lawyer will provide legal expertise to any officers needing advice, based on policy agreed between the agencies.
Director of Public Prosecutions Barbara Mills said the move would bring “significant benefits both to the CPS and the police”. She said the aim was “for lawyers and police officers to get it 'right first time'. This will help to ensure the right cases go to court on the right charge at the right time.”
She said lawyers would be advising on evidence and public interest factors in cases which would help improve the quality and timeliness of files, and promote more efficient use of resources. “Offering on-the-spot legal advice to the police can go a long way towards achieving this,” she said.
The pilot includes police stations in Leeds, Bedford, Shoreditch, Northampton, Barnsley and Wombwell, and CPS administrative units at Lincoln, South Norwood, Watford, Gwent, Harborne and Thanet.
Durham Chief Constable Frank Taylor, who “wholeheartedly” supports the pilot, said: “The police and the CPS have always had the same objective – the successful prosecution of the guilty. The only way to go forward is to work together, while recognising that we have different parts to play in the criminal justice system.”