Rave reviews expected as CPS pilot scheme report is compiled

A REPORT on the CPS pilot project to install prosecutors in police stations – which is certain to be positive – is due this week to be submitted to Dame Barbara Mills, the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The project, launched in January 1996, was designed to improve communications between the CPS and police to ensure that suspects received the most appropriate charges at the earliest stage of the prosecuting process.

The pilot scheme, which took place in six police stations, officially ended at the end of last year, although it has continued to operate.

And according to chief crown prosecutor Mike Graham, who has been charged with assessing the success of the pilot, other CPS branches have already started to adopt similar schemes. He said they had noted “the benefits that can be achieved by this project”.

Graham, who heads the CPS's northern division, would not comment on the final report, but he did point to two “positive” interim reports, which were compiled while the pilots were running.

They conclude that “despite an initial low take-up rate, there is a clear general feeling on the part of the police that the pilots are a means of providing quick and practical solutions to problems”. They also stress that there is a “clear recognition” of “independence, but interdependence between the two services”.

Roger Ede, secretary of the Law Society's criminal law committee, welcomed the pilot, although he reiterated the society's concern that the CPS should guard against its prosecutors compromising their independence.

He said new regulations – attached to the Government's Crime Sentences Bill – would make it even more important that the right charges were put at the start of cases.

Under the proposals, defendants will have to give an indication of what plea they intend to offer at the mode of trial stage in magistrates proceedings.

Last month the pilot schemes received the endorsement of the Home Office report, Review of Delay in the Criminal Justice System.

But last week the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Bingham, said a permanent CPS presence at police stations could undermine its independence.